There is nothing on Broadway like “freestyle love supreme,” playing at the Booth Theatre! I am so thrilled that it is back and bringing audiences the most unique theatrical experience. “freestyle love supreme”: improv at the highest level, is an audiences’ dream! Fantastic! It’s no wonder that this production received a Special Honor for the 2020 Tony Awards, a trophy which it gladly takes out and shows the audience.
At the show I attended, the audience—full of both first-timers and repeat participants—were there in full voice, shouting out words and headline suggestions based on the categories given by the actors. What’s so incredible about this production is that every show is absolutely different from the next, and the audience is literally a part of the show as the cast, on-the-spot, makes up freestyle songs, raps and scenes based on their suggestions.
At the performance I attended, the “freestyle love supreme” cast, which is always switching, consisted of some of the most skilled, versatile actors, singers and overall performers you will ever encounter: Aneesa Folds aka Young Nees; Anthony Veneziale aka Two-Touch; Christopher Jackson aka C-Jack; Chris Sullivan aka Shockwave (the master of human-made beats and sound effects); and Andrew Bancroft aka Jelly Donut. It should be noted that Christopher Jackson, Anthony Veneziale and Chris Sullivan are founding members and, in fact, Veneziale conceived of the idea and created it with the assistance of Thomas Kail and Lin-Manuel Miranda and the production is directed by Thomas Kail.
There is such a cohesion of talent on that stage; it’s one of the stunning elements of this production and every audience gets to feel and experience it. Before the show starts, audience members are given a barcode and asked to text a word that they want to see included in a scene. Those words are put on paper and pulled from a bucket and given life on stage. Then the audience was asked to shout out their least favorite things. The audience was very vocal, and the actors choose three subjects to improv around: Anti-vaxxers, Supply Chains and Pop Quizzes. It was brilliant and side-holding-laughter funny as Jelly Donut did sporadic raps about Anti-Vaxxers, Two-Touch did Supply Chains and Young Nees took on the trauma of Pop-Quizzes for young kids in school. The audience was overwhelmed with the humor, joy and spontaneity of the geniuses before us. It was great! Two-Touch then invited the audience to think back to when they were younger and give a headline for something that happened that they wished they could do over. In the balcony, a student named Alexander was thrown a mic and shared his story of woe in his school cafeteria. Two-Touch asked him questions and got all the details of what happened to him. It was the day he came to lunch late, missed the seat at the table he normally sat at and went to another table where the boys were acting as WWE wrestlers. Before you knew it, he was wrestling with them and in the end of it put into a headlock and wound up chipping his tooth on the table, as he banged it trying to escape the headlock. Well, you can’t imagine the creativity on that stage that not only portrayed his story to improv perfection, but then did a scenario in which Alexander was given a second chance and the group changed his decision in a particularly hilarious way and deescalated the toxic masculinity of he and his two friends and helped them to realize that they needed a therapist. Then, after getting therapy, each boy was able to grow into a productive, sensitive successful man. You can’t imagine how entertaining this all was for the audience.
Next, a student from Barnard College named Caroline shared a story about her day before coming to the theater and they improved her story from the time she was woken up at 10 a.m. by her mother Linda, to hearing about her best friend’s sexual escapades, to her watching a football game she didn’t understand between Columbia and Penn State at Columbia Homecoming, and then getting the train to the theater. What was great was that the story already was funny as Caroline was telling it and Two-Touch was reacting to what she said. But when the ensemble did improv for everything from start to finish and included spins on her mother Linda, that was ridiculously hilarious. Oh my God, we couldn’t stop laughing.
On the last call for words, the audience, completely loving being a vital part of the production shot up their hands. This time, my best friend Denese’s word was chosen, “Yes.” And Young Nees, who has an incredibly, powerful, beautiful voice, started to sing about the word Yes and talk about real things that happened in her personal life. She sang of being a shy girl with social anxiety and her mother pushing her to participate. She auditioned for the Chorus of New York City and got in. She performed with them in Japan, Switzerland and many other places. She sang of her parents telling her of the joy she could bring others. Her story and voice touched the audience deeply. C-Jack took to the microphone and he asked whether people were feeling good sitting in these seats, and how sitting there opened you to the person next to you. He asked if people felt blessed to be there and many other positive questions that the audience answered Yes to. The energy in the theater was off the charts. Two-Touch also told inspiring personal stories of his childhood during the show. Throughout the show Shockwave provided countless amazing beats and sound effects. At the performance I attended, Richard Baskin Jr. made his outstanding Broadway debut as the conductor of the live on-stage band.
This production is something that should always be on Broadway because improv is the roots of the theater, and long may it reign! It was amazing how these actors would not only create something out of one word, or a headline, or a storyline, but also incorporate sharing personal truths in their lives with the audience. Every moment at “freestyle love supreme” was one the audience will definitely cherish. Unfortunately, the show is playing a limited engagement through Jan. 2, 2022.
You have got to head over to the Booth Theatre on West 45th Street and experience this improv treasure for yourself. Just come with words and ideas, who knows?
For more info, visit www.freestylelovesupreme.com.