Sunday, 11 March 2012

Boing Fwip! The Blanks visit The Forum

I'm a sucker for some a cappella.

photo credit: The Blanks 
It's true. For all my love of instrumental music, the ability to strip everything else away and create a variety of sounds with nothing but one's voice is a source of both fascination and great entertainment to me.

The Blanks may not be a household name, but any Scrubs fan will recognise them as the Worthless Peons - aka. Ted's band.

Written into the show because producer Bill Lawrence was such a fan of their work, the boys got a lot more exposure than they most likely would have otherwise, with their wacky blend of comedy and barbershop being a somewhat unique choice of genre, particularly when their song choices include TV theme songs from old cartoons and loveable 80's sitcoms.

So being a fan of both Scrubs and a cappella music, I was excited to head upstairs at the Forum Theatre to see The Blanks perform live on Wednesday night.

The sound man was already playing some background music as I took my seat - not particularly unusual of course, although the fact that the song playing was the ludicrous YouTube sensation, "Trololo", was indicative of the madness that awaited us.

The show was centred around the early revelation that there was a famous talent scout in the audience (despite them repeating the name at least a dozen times during the show, I've still managed to forget it) that had the potential to put them on Broadway, but their show had to tick so many boxes in order to make the cut. Thus the smooth transitions between songs, dramatic moments, audience connections, etc... were all played out, pantomime style, to demonstrate to this imaginary talent scout that they had what it takes to take their show all the way to the top.

These are very funny guys with witty improv skills who are, of course, extremely good at their craft.

Whether they were singing medleys of the aforementioned sitcoms and cartoons or performing the beautiful number, "A Little Polish", which Philip wrote for his grandmother's 80th birthday party (The Blanks' first gig), their harmonies were as lovely as they were clever.

The first half of the performance was quite Scrubs-focused. They clearly understood their audience and were happy to give us what we wanted, so we enjoyed almost all of the tunes that featured on the TV show, including the theme song, "Superman", as well as the Emmy-nominated gem (and my personal favourite), "Guy Love", which featured in Season 6, Episode 6, "My Musical".

The second half was more about what this quartet have done outside of Sacred Heart Hospital, including the intriguing integration of toys (sorry, "special guests") into their numbers. Taking a talking pumpkin and triggering it just so, to make it a fifth voice in the new Halloween anthem, aptly titled, "Happy Halloween" (incidentally the only thing the toy can say) is a lot more entertaining than it may sound. 

One particular section of the show was dedicated to connecting to the audience ("tick!"), where each band member told their absolutely true story. And how could you possibly doubt the handing down of the sacred toupee that, for generations, has brought success to a long line of eastern European pummel horse gymnasts?

I wonder if these stories could have been a little shorter, for as funny as they were, there did seem to be a distinct drop in energy with such a long gap between songs. That said, perhaps I am just sad that there was apparently no time for another of my favourite moments from Scrubs, their delightful cover of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow"

I dare say there might be another reason it didn't make the cut though, as it also fails to make an appearance on "Riding the Wave", the funny-cos-it's-true title of their album.

No doubt Ted, being a highly successful lawyer, knows the reason. What do you mean, his name's Sam and he's not a lawyer? 

In any case, it really was a very funny and entertaining evening. Their take on one of those "Time Life" style ads for a nostalgic compilation album that runs through 23 famous tracks in a couple of minutes (complete with voice over) was extremely impressive.

For their encore, The Blanks said that they'd prepared another medley, this time of traditional Australian folk songs, to celebrate their first tour down under. 

They lied. 

But that's ok, because it turned out to be a different sort of medley - and one that was thoroughly enjoyed by all, no doubt like the show itself. 


The guys did, in fact, get the all-important "Yes" from the big Broadway producer (gotta love a happy ending), but, despite their continued - and richly deserved - worldwide success, I hope they find it in their busy schedule to make it back down to Australia again soon. 

For anyone reading this in the northern states of Oz, check out their website or their Facebook page for details of the rest of their tour, including Brisbane on Wednesday 14th March and Sydney on Sunday 18th March. 

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