I coach the Improv team at the high school I teach; I took a whole quarter of Improv in my college theatre program; I can’t freestyle or rap. These three qualifications allow me to declare just how impressive, talented, and incredibly touching the national touring company of Freestyle Love Supreme is, playing at the Geary Theater in the heart of San Francisco’s theatre district. The quintet of freestylers alongside the two musicians live up to the billing: the freestyle is off-the-chain impressive, the love is structured within the established and replenished numbers from opening beat to final exit, and this musical is supremely adept at encouraging and harnessing audience and cast stories to bring theatre to its core: we tell stories. In different ways, with different backgrounds, all we’re doing is telling a story.
For improvisation fans, in lieu of “games” we have musical numbers as the program’s content. The cast (when I saw it), comprised of Andrew Bancroft (aka Jelly Donut), Aneesa Folds (aka Young Nees), Chris Sullivan (aka Shockwave), Morgan Reilly (aka Hummingbird), and special guest star Anthony Veneziale (aka Two Touch/a founding member of Freestyle Love Supreme). Jelly Donut was our main host, gathering all sorts of prompts and stories and call-outs from the energized Saturday matinee audience I was happy to be a part of. Never did the content get uncomfortable, and never did the audience get too rowdy; this is in part because the essence of genuine love the cast was committed to sharing with the theater. You can’t direct that and you can’t teach that, you can only cast that. I applaud the cast for not just their talent but for their responsible use of and interaction with the audience.
That said, the freestyling, flows, and rhymes were impeccably delivered with a polish of hilarity. The cast knew what breadcrumbs to bring up in other numbers, and their physical comedy matched the lyrics like a fine-tuned Corvette. The cast knew exactly how far to take jokes and which prompts would garner the most intrigue. I am (selfishly) pleased to report that one of my stories was used! The musical number was to re-enact and then re-do an event in an audience member’s life that is embarrassing/regretful. Mine included a glass eye and dodgeball. I cried laughing at how much fun the cast had re-enacting and then “fixing” my problem; special shout out to Shockwave for his astounding beatbox skills. As someone who watched beatbox videos and tried his darndest to be a beatboxer in high school, I can assure you that the best beatboxers are musicians on another level of talent. Shockwave’s beatboxing sounds made me forget it was a human doing it; the mark of an elite.
Some musical numbers allowed us to get to know the cast a bit more, as well as the audience. My matinee brought a member whose husband is nearing the end days of a terminal disease, and the audience was in a metaphorical embrace with this audience member. The cast delivered a day in the life of this patron, and it was equal parts touching and hilarious. I can’t express enough how superb Freestyle Love Supreme is so let’s end this review now so you can hop on their site and see if they’re rolling into a town near you. Go see this show!