In March, ComedySportz® Richmond Minor League players Carsen Young, Malerie Anderson, and Didier Paul Fleurisme auditioned for roles in Lyrical Weapon. This original musical parody of the 1987 film Lethal Weapon is directed by Dominic Wall and Travis Williams. It opened August 24 and will run through September 9 at the CSz Richmond Theater.
After months of rehearsals alongside Major League players and other experienced performers, these three newcomers weigh in on their journey.
Hearing ComedySportz® Richmond players talk about their experiences in the 2015 parody “Refrain of the Jedi” sparked Anderson’s interest and she had been eager to try out for a musical parody ever since.
“I was super new at CSz then and I could see how much pride everyone took in it and how awesome the show was,” she said.
Fleurisme and Young, who joined the Minor League in 2016, felt ready to try something new. Fleurisme said he wanted an opportunity to stretch himself beyond his usual ComedySportz® Minor League matches.
“The audition turned out to be a lot more relaxed than what I had in mind,” said Fleurisme, explaining that it included familiar warm up and improv games, followed by singing and rapping exercises.
“I'm always up for another chance to be on stage and I really enjoy trying out various types of performances,” said Young. “My performance background is in music, so I was excited at the idea of a musical. Plus, life has taught me that you should do something that scares you as often as possible.”
These players said that although Lyrical Weapon is loosely scripted and choreographed, they rely on their training from the Adult 101 class and Minor League practices.
“We obviously have to follow the storyline of the movie, the songs are pre-written, and famous key lines from the movie have to be said because the audience expects them, but beyond that, the whole show is improvised,” said Young, adding that improvisers know how to adapt when a prop malfunctions or something does not go as planned.
“What I've learned from the 101 (class) and the Minor League plays an important part in how I have performed in Lyrical Weapon,” Fleurisme said. “Especially having my partner's back, sharing focus, and remembering to play and have fun, I don't think I would’ve been able to do any of this without those three things.”
“We use our improv training a lot for Lyrical Weapon, said Anderson. “While it's not exactly improvised in that we have specific scenes and characters, most of our lines are improvised, and even the lines that aren't improvised at this point were improvised in the beginning.”
Fleurisme said that listening, one of the key elements of improvisation, is crucial to performing in this type of show.
“You have to listen to stage instructions, choreography, hear the cues for your lines and you have to be able to adapt to when all of those instructions change,” he said.
And although Lyrical Weapon is a musical production, the players have found that musical competence alone does not determine a player’s ability to succeed. In fact, a confident improviser can bring a lot to a scene, even without musical experience.
Young recalls his Minor League coach and Lyrical Weapon producer, Christine Walters, advising him “We're comedians, not singers.”
“As long as you can halfway carry a tune, I feel like it's less about musical ability and more about confidence,” Young said. “You have to be comfortable standing in front of an audience and singing to the best of your ability, whatever that may be. There's a pretty wide range of singing talent amongst the Lyrical Weapon cast, but the best performances are the ones that are done with the most confidence.”
“Since it's a parody, singing ability isn't the highest priority but being able to remember your lines in a song and being able to project your voice is of high importance,” Fleurisme said.
“You'll also want to bring your creativity,” Young said. “It's a genuine co-creating environment, where we go into it with a rough idea but the final production is really shaped by the ideas of the entire cast. Above all else, the trait you need is confidence. If you're weaker in one skill or another, you can find ways to emphasize your strengths and downplay your weaknesses, but you have to be confident or it won't work.”
These players said the Lyrical Weapon experience will last beyond their final performance because of the relationships they’ve built.
“My biggest takeaway from this experience is definitely the connections I've made with the cast and crew. I feel like I've made a lot of new friends, Fleurisme said.
“Part of my motivation for trying out was getting to spend time with a lot of people I love to spend time with and this has really given me a chance to get to know people better and feel even more part of the CSz family,” said Anderson.
“I've been able to get to know a lot of really great performers, and working alongside them has boosted my own confidence. It's been a big time commitment but I really feel like we've put together an awesome show that will really entertain people and I love the way that feels,” Young said.
No longer new kids on the musical parody scene, they have some words of encouragement for others who want to step outside their comfort zones and try out for a play or improv troupe.
“My advice for anyone who might be auditioning for something like this would be to just go in with confidence. I'm not the best singer, to say the least, but I came in with confidence at the audition and I think that's what makes all the difference,” Anderson said.
“So if you ever want to audition for any type of production, relax, listen and have fun,” said Fleurisme.
“Do it,” said Young. “The worst that can happen is you don't get a part. And you don't have a part now, so is that really a loss?”
Lyrical Weapon is produced by Christine Walters and the CSz Richmond Theater. The cast includes Briana Burke, Shannon Edwards, Rachel Garmon, Michelle Nieporte, Daryl Scruggs, Kelly Scruggs, Emily Turner, Didier Paul Fleurisme, Carsen Young, Malerie Anderson, Travis Williams, and Dominic Wall. This After Hours production is intended for adult audiences. Get your tickets at https://www.cszrichmond.com/tickets.
Lisa Swope has been a Minor League Player at ComedySportz® since 2016.