The Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the Second City’s resident improv ensemble reunited at Roy Thompson Hall for the second performance of ‘The Second City Guide to the Symphony’, hosted by Second City alumnus/ improviser Colin Mochrie. This show features original music by the Second City’s own Matthew Reid, who joins the TSO on-stage for a “glorious ninety minutes when life doesn’t suck,” among similarly themed full-chorus and solo numbers. These ninety minutes provide high-quality accessible music and comedy, enjoyable by/for both TSO and SC devotees, as well as any “Symphony Virgins” who may be “Fiddling Around,” as the scenes suggest.
Brownen Sharp’s photo of ‘Chief Inspector’ Mochrie with the 2nd City & T.S.O.
Much of the performance is scripted, but in true SC style, improvisation is key; this performance required improvisational participation from the troupe, the orchestra, and the audience. Featuring pieces recognizable to newcomers such as, The Marriage of Figaro overture and Sunrise from Strauss’ Also Sprach Zarathustra), comedic video interludes, and even a rap battle– the “Bach-Off”- conductor Peter Oundijan’s willingness to play was contagious. The highlight of the evening was when trumpeter Steven Woomert, violinist Leslie Dawn Knowles, and tuba-ist Mark Tetreault seamlessly elevated an improvised scene featuring an unhappy couple to an impromptu ride on the Divorce Train.
Those new to classical music will receive a crash course in the nuanced and semi-explicit history of classical composers, including encyclopaedic accounts of their escapades in life and in immortality; spectators with a background in the subject will especially enjoy the troupe’s takes on Mahler, madness, and self-medication. Musicians in both ends of the double-digit age spectrum will appreciate the solo numbers regarding love for the musical arts and its artists. In the absence of the musicians, audience members participate in the troupe’s narrative as they make do with keys, programs, and foot-stomping in the face of decreased arts funding in the troupe’s public school; all the while, the clever and explicit number documenting one woman’s experimentation with various members of the orchestra is fresh in memory.
Whatever you’re looking for in a night-out, you will find it here. With any luck, The Second City Guide to the Symphony’s 2016-2017 tour will ask for a third date. If it does, I can only hope that the powdered wig-wearing troupe treat us to a Rachmanin-Off.(sic)