A dash of old-time TV variety show, a pinch of late-night talk show, and more than a soupçon of improvisation are the ingredients the guys at No Rules Theatre Company hope will satisfy fun-loving audiences looking for laughs and music.
An array of local celebrities, performers and others will join co-creator and on-stage host Joshua Morgan for the ten performances of The No Rules Show. Among the guests are musical artists, stand-up comedians, political activists, radio and television personalities, and writers.
How mixed is the mix?
Rebecca Sheir (WAMU), Regie Cabico (La-Ti-Do), Jacqueline Lawton (playwright) and Jennifer Kohl (Joshua’s mom!)
A full line-up of guests is listed here.
The No Rules Show opened last night and runs through July 21 in the ARK, the intimate space at Arlington’s Signature Theatre.
Brian Sutow, the show’s director and co-creator, the ARK is the perfect fit for their new hybrid entertainment. “The best way to describe it is part talk show, part cabaret. It really is this lovable mash-up of a musical cabaret and a lively talk show.”
Joshua Morgan offered his own version. “I like to think of it like a modern day Judy Garland Show. It really comes down to the fact that I see myself as a modern day Judy Garland. Her show was more of a musical revue, which is partly what we’re doing.”
The co-directors of No Rules Theatre Company have co-created The No Rules Show. Sutow helped structure what each show will be like and will likely make some guest appearances during the performances. Morgan serves as host and will play the piano and sing, sometimes on his own and sometimes with guests.
“We wanted to do something musical but we didn’t want to do a fully produced musical,” Morgan said, talking about the show’s origins. “Our creative relationship has been based around building things from scratch, even this theatre company. This show follows that idea and our goal to create new pieces.”
“There are going to be some audience games that will be a consistent element from night to night,” Sutow added. “It’s going to be a fun and interactive experience for everyone.”
After the show, the audience is invited to get in the act with an open karaoke. Anyone can bring their own songbooks or sheet music. Morgan will handle the accompaniment.
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“The format is likely to change from performance to performance. It will be based on whoever is there as one of the guests and what their specialty is. But it’s important for us to keep it off the cuff.
Sutow agreed. “If you take something that’s not scripted then you should really take full advantage of the fact that it will be a one-of-kind experience in front of the audience every single night.”
Creating entertainment out of structured chaos is how Sutow and Morgan have worked creatively for a long time. And Morgan has a knack for it, according to Sutow.
“It reminds me of the comedy duos Josh and I have done in the past at Fringe Festival. During Assembly Required, I would highly script those and then the best things happened when Joshua would derail from the script and do whatever he wanted.”
“I sound like a nightmare, so unprofessional,” exclaimed Morgan.
Sutow countered, “I hope it doesn’t come off that way because those were the best parts of the show, the things that were completely spontaneous and unpredictable.”
“This is that same kind of structure; it’s not that the interviews aren’t produced to a certain extent. Like on a late night show, sometimes the host knows the questions they are going to ask. But we’re building in plenty of room for Joshua to do what he does best, to really engage with people and the elements around him.”
When it comes to assembling the guests and planning – or not planning – what to do with them onstage, Morgan said he has honed his skills around town. “After doing piano bars for theatreWashington, Capital Pride and Arena Stage these last few years, I find I love it all – the guest who is an amazing singer or the one who just kind of stands there. It all works and there’s no right or wrong.”
One of the keys to success, Morgan added, “It’s important, no matter how awkwardly it may go, that I become the idiot or the buffoon before the guest does.”
He’s the onstage host who is ready for anything, but it’s the audiences that excites Morgan more than anything. “That’s the thing I love the most about doing these kinds of things. Every audience is different and latches onto a different part of the story or what we’re doing. And it’s kind of frightening because you never know if they’re going to be quiet or engaged.”
“That’s where the show really lives; Brian and I can plan things left and right, and have great guests and great musical performances, but it’s really going to come down to the ten different audiences that we have and the journey they want to go on.”
Who should come to The No Rules Show? “I hope that people who are up for having a fun night out will come,” Sutow answered. “Have some drinks and enjoy some music, laugh, do some live karaoke. It should have a pretty broad appeal.”
As for broad appeal, Morgan said he’s got that covered, too. “I’m kind of a mixture of a three year old and a 55 year old.”