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Your ideas wanted for ‘Broadway’s Next Hit Musical’ in Clayton on Saturday

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CLAYTON — The performers in “Broadway’s Next Hit Musical” don’t have to worry about their show getting stale.

“One of the reasons why it stays so fresh is that the audience constantly takes us to other places,” said Greg Triggs, one of the four presenters in “Broadway’s Next Hit Musical.” The improvised act stops at the Clayton Opera House on Saturday night.

The show’s premise is that audiences create the show from scratch.

“It just goes to all sorts of fresh and unexpected places,” Mr. Triggs said last week from Des Moines, Iowa.

As the show travels around the country, it has performed skits with topics such as the Salem witch trials, a musical about a hen who can no longer lay eggs because of a mid-life crisis (“Henapause”), a musical set in the court of a king in the 1600s and one featuring Abe Lincoln.

This is how the show works: audience members enter their suggestions for that night’s “Next Hit Musical” on slips of paper before taking their seats.

“There will be a table out in the lobby with someone encouraging audience members to make up titles,” Mr. Triggs said.

Those titles are put in a “big glass bowl” which will be placed on a piano on stage.

The emcee then comes out to talk to the crowd and introduces the first presenter, who will go to the glass bowl and pull out a title “and then make up a (musical) show in front of the audience,” Mr. Triggs said.

After the four presenters stage their acts, audience members vote on which is their favorite.

“The second half of our show is a full production of that musical,” Mr. Triggs said.

The show consists of four presenters who perform the acts suggested by the audience, an emcee and a pianist, Eric March.

The emcee is Brad Barton, who can be seen on the online movie ticket site Fandango conducting celebrity interviews.

Mr. Triggs said he and fellow presenters are inspired by each other.

“If you are having an off night, you’ve got other really talented people on stage who can take the ball and run with it,” he said. “Football teams would be envious of us because we’ve got four quarterbacks who know when to pull back and when to exert themselves.”

Mr. Triggs, a native of Madison, Wis., has been doing improvisational comedy for more than 20 years. He also performs with Chicago City Limits and has been a member of ensembles at the Comedy Warehouse on Disney’s Pleasure Island in Florida and the Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis.

The show, Mr. Triggs said, is family friendly.

“We try to keep things very family appropriate so parents and grandparents can feel comfortable bringing anyone in the family,” said Mr. Triggs.

He was asked if it’s disappointing to stage an entertaining and well-received musical one night only to have it evaporate into the improvisational atmosphere and never heard from again.

“I think there are some stories we yearn to revisit, but that’s kind of counter-intuitive to improvisation,” he said.

A good improvisational actor, he said, needs to have certain key attributes, including curiosity and to be “committed to working at the top of your intelligence.”

Mr. Triggs has done some acting on television and had roles in traditional theater, but said improvisation is his first love.

“As the world changes, you get fresh things to work with,” he said. “It’s not like I’ve been doing the same play like ‘Death of a Salesman’ for 20 years. There’s always inspiration around as long as you are committed to being in touch with it.”

the details
WHAT: “Broadway’s Next Hit Musical”
WHEN/WHERE: 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Clayton Opera House, 405 Riverside Drive
COST: Ticket prices range from $35 to $50. All seats are reserved. To order tickets, call the opera house box office at 686-2200 or visit www.claytonoperahouse.com
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