Musical hilarity on the fly


Infidelity, a fascination with the deep ocean and Calgary made for an interesting night at The Factory Theatre last Thursday.

For the cast of One Night Only: The Greatest Musical Never Written, these three audience suggestions opened up the door to sidesplitting comedy, all of which was improvised.


Jan Caruana, graduate of Sheridan College Theatre program.

“I’ve been improvising for a long time and I’ve heard a lot of good suggestions and some terrible suggestions, but the key is to know it’s a jumping off point,” said Jan Caruana, a graduate of the Sheridan College Theatre program.

After all, actor Ron Pederson jumped on stage as a mime in the second scene and before anyone knew it, he was having an affair with an imaginary woman named Denise.

“When you start to make those suggestions personal to the characters, that’s when the show really hits its stride,” said Caruana.

For the audience, the suggestions seemed ridiculous, but the crew took what they got and ran with it.

The entire play was based around the Calgary stampede and finding a new entertainer for their show.

With a single stage set and live music, orchestrated by musical director Jordan Armstrong, the cast of six successfully brought together a comedic two-act musical.

The cast of One Night Only performing their only rehearsed scene, the opening number.

The cast of One Night Only performing its only rehearsed scene, the opening number. (Photo by Robyn Bacon)

“You can step on stage with someone you’ve never acted with before and because you share this common vocabulary and actability of what improv is, you can generally work with each other,” said Caruana.

The cast of One Night Only rehearsed for a week in preparation for the 18 totally unique shows and aside from the opening number, the play was completely off the cuff.

After three spontaneous audience suggestions, we meet the first two characters, followed by two more scenes to introduce the storyline.

The only planned aspect is who will go out first, which actor will stay on stage and who will be the second and third to present their characters.

“We don’t know what type of characters will develop and after that it’s a mad frantic rush back stage to see what wig you are going to wear,” said Caruana.

Photo by Robyn Bacon  Ron Pederson on January 26, acting with one of the many props for One Night Only: The Greatest Musical Never Written.

Ron Pederson on Jan. 26, acting with one of the many props for One Night Only: The Greatest Musical Never Written.
(Photo by Robyn Bacon)

Backstage, under the mustaches, coats and scarves is a very important person; the one designated to keep the overgrown, yet organized pile of costumes together.

Knowing what character had what accessory and the names each actor comes up with makes for a smoother transition between scenes.

But backstage isn’t just about organizing character personalities, Caruana says it’s also a real blend of two things in order to prepare for each scene.

“You really have to listen in improv. Once you stop, that’s when everything goes off the rails.”

“We have monitors and speakers to hear and see what’s going on. Because of the construction of the theatre we don’t have that luxury of sitting out front to watch it and jumping in when we need to.”

Instead, the stage goes black between each scene so the actors can come back out and take their positions.

The show was full of awkward scenes, both sexual and social, which made for a hilarious comedy from start to finish.

Presented by Golden Ages Productions, One Night Only: The Greatest Musical Never Written will run to Feb. 14 at the Factory Theatre Mainspace in Toronto.

While you never know what you’re going to get at this show, laughter is a definite promise.