Improv with a sweet tooth

Baby Wants Candy performed ‘Lion King in Space: The Musical.’ (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

“Baby Wants Candy presents the opening and closing night of Lion King in Space: the Musical,” said the improv comedy troupe, as they introduced their show, presented by the College Union Board, on Tuesday, Oct. 12.

Baby Wants Candy began by inviting everyone in the Mildred and Ernest E. Mayo Concert Hall to shout out potential titles for their signature piece — a performance created entirely from scratch.

The only props the troupe used were five chairs set up on the stage and the accompaniment of the Yes Band, who provided the show’s live music.

After fielding audience suggestions, the troupe settled on “Lion King in Space.”

The song “A New Home For Us” opened the show, as Captain Simba, played by Stuart Ranson, takes it upon himself to lead the animals in their outer space journey.

Conflict arises after Snakey, played by Eliza Skinner, recruits the giraffe (Jon Karpinos) and his sidekick/secret lover Larry the Hippo (Micah Sherman) to help her overthrow Captain Simba.

The newfound, potential power gets to the giraffe’s head in the humorous number “Height is Power,” where he sings with the hippo about how his long neck and legs are evidence of his superiority.

After her babies are eaten by Snakey, Diane the Warthog (also played by Skinner) begrudges Captain Simba for it: “You put a snake on this ship? Are you stupid?”

The warthog’s statement sums up the conflict of the entire musical. It is not until the end, when all the animals trample Snakey, that order is resumed.

Mistakenly believing that Nala (Ashley Ward) is Simba, the giraffe uses its herbivore teeth to attack the lioness, which she describes as “excruciatingly painful as he ground my jugular to a pulp.”

After losing his lion lover, Simba calls the animals together and apologizes for not being a good leader, as the band joined in with sentimental music.

The final song, “Land Ho!” expressed the animal’s excitement about finally landing: “We’ll reach our new home, where we’re free to roam. A new savannah. Land ho!”

Other songs included “There’s Always a Snake,” sung by Snakey as the others slithered and danced around her, and “Lions in Love,” a ballad between Simba and Nala.

Recurring references to Simba’s incessant desire for love-making, the muskrats being forced to “sleep in shit” (due to the shuttle’s lack of sanitation) and the repressed romance between the hippo and giraffe always received laughs.

This musical of deception, love and the power struggle in the hierarchy of jungle animals seemed like it required some planning, but that wasn’t the case.

“We use the basic tenants of improv,” Ward said. “There’s not a formula per say. We know we start with an opening number and just go from there.”

“It’s a whole lot of listening and enjoying your peers. We’re performing, but really we just get to play with our friends,” Skinner said.

The live band also works entirely on improvisation. “When they reach the apex of emotion, we start vamping into a song and launch in from there,” said Joel Esher, pianist.

Skinner provided a possible explanation for the group’s ambiguous name choice.

“The name was an early suggestion,” she said. “It’s the attitude of the ensemble. Once there’s candy or fun on stage, everyone wants to be a part of it and just joins in.”

Overall, students left this one-of-a-kind production pleased with what they saw.

“It’s amazing how they’re able to completely improvise everything,” said Christine Buber, sophomore psychology major. “It was better than I thought.”

“I thought it was hilarious and really good improv,” said Matt Maerten, sophomore communication studies major.

Mixed Signals, the College’s own improv group, opened the event. The group performed four different games, with the most memorable being the final where “peanut butter” was the phrase selected by the audience to be integrated into various scenes.

Editors note: Due to the nature of this event, song titles were derived from prominant, repeated lyrics.