While he may be best-known for appearing in hit American TV shows Law and Order and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Jason Kravits has many strings to his bow and has also carved out a successful career on stage and in comedy. The Broadway veteran combines music and mayhem as he returns to London with his spoof cabaret show, Off The Top, playing at the Crazy Coqs for one week only.
Off The Top sees Kravits embrace the persona of an imaginary cabaret star (whose name is supplied by the audience) and sing a range of songs about the star’s life – all made up on the spot, with a little help from the audience. Like many improv shows, the audience are key and before the show they’re encouraged to fill out a brief form, supplying everything from a place, an adjective and words to live by, to the last text message they sent or received; their imaginations shaping the show. Over the course of the evening, Kravits (or, on press night, Matthew Discovery from Tulsa) pulls the suggestions out of a fish bowl and uses them to make up amusing anecdotes and cleverly-crafted songs on the spot, accompanied by Musical Director John Thorn on the piano, Jonny Gee on bass and Sophie Alloway on drums. The beauty of the show is that no one knows what’s going to happen – not even Kravits himself – which ensures there are plenty of surprises and laughs throughout. We were treated to stories of Discovery’s bus ride from Tulsa to the Taj Mahal; a hockey shoot out with Justin Trudeau; and songs about lifeboats, fish and – thanks to the British humour in the audience – Grimsby. Kravits and his band delved into different genres of music, from Sondheim to Sinatra with a little bit of jazz in between as he performed Discovery’s well-known hits including ‘F*ck It’, ‘Don’t Give a Sh*t’ and, more amusingly, a song about racket stringing. His final anecdote, a Broadway-themed piece involving staging a musical on a roundabout in Croydon, was particularly inspired and showcased Kravits’ talents both as a comedian and musical performer.
Each night during his week-long run, Kravits is joined by a special celebrity guest including the likes of Josie Lawrence, Joe Stilgoe and Rachel Tucker. For the press performance it was the turn of Ruth Bratt, an established improv artist herself, who proved she was a great match for Kravits during a duet about a bigamist woman looking for her next love. Possibly the highlight of the evening was when the pair performed a Russian-inspired song using the remainder of the audiences’ suggestions. Though the guest performer only appears briefly, their inclusion adds to the show and it’s fun to see the pair work together, particularly as they perform their ‘well-known’ duet.
The show combines improv, music, comedy and cabaret to great effect, and also provides a safe space for audience members – unlike some improv shows there’s no pressure to join in if you don’t want to. If anything the evening goes by too quickly, and you’re left wanting more. The quick-thinking Kravits gives a masterclass in improvisation, proving just why he’s one of the best on the scene, and it’s great to watch him make up all kinds of stories with just a moment’s notice. Unpredictable, unique and downright hilarious, Off The Top is a fun-filled show that’s not to be missed!
Off The Top is playing at the Crazy Coqs until Sunday 19 January.
Photo credit: Danny Kaan