BATS Theatre (Out-Of-Site) Understudy Bar, Wellington

30/10/2014 - 30/10/2014

NZ Improv Festival 2014

Production Details

The Reverend Bernie presents the spiritual successor to last year’s “Vance Fontaine’s Big Band Jam”. Without rehearsal performers from the festival turn up to perform songs as soloists, choir members or conductors or all of the above. All under the watchful eye of Reverend Bernie.  

Anything could happen, magic and disaster. All with audience sing-a-long ability. 

Gear Productions have been producing improv comedy for the past few years – including the shows “Vance Fontaine in Command Performance” and “Vance Fontaine for Lovers” as well as “Thom and Greg’s Tales of Adventure”. Greg is an experienced improviser, having worked professionally in NZ and overseas since 1990. 

Thursday 30 October 2014 11:00pm

Part of The New Zealand Improv Festival
28 October – 1 November at BATS (Out of Site)
3 show passes available! Contact the Box Office for more information – 


A bawdy, irreverent hour

Review by Jonathan Kingston-Smith 31st Oct 2014

On Thursday night, in a strangely half-deserted central city, an assembled collective of experienced improvisers whip the Understudy Bar into an ecclesiastic frenzy and take us all to church… 

Puh-raise Jay-sus! 

The following hour is a romp: as the improvisers, acclaimed musician Robbie Ellis and our engaging and entertaining host – Greg Ellis as the Reverend Bernie – fill the dingy space with a foot-stomping, feel-good vibe, rife with irreverence and consistently amusing uses of profanity.

Opening with a hand-waving Gospel number about the importance of sexual open-mindedness (albeit one couched in a partial rhyme – look, I’m just not buying the rhyme of ‘not’ with ‘butt’… sorry, guys), the troupe guides us from vocal canons, through duets, drunken apologies for shattered wine-glasses, audience sing-alongs and Teutonic military marches, to triumphant rock-choral numbers about teddy bears (with a highly informative aside from Jeff). Not to overlook what is perhaps the whitest soul number I have been witness to, on the subject of scarves, no less. It is a delightful thing indeed. 

Worthy of especial acclaim is the large choral number on the importance of dentistry, which also manages to be a little bit about Jesus (’cos this is a congregation, man). Until last night I’d never once considered the difficulty of finding a rhyme for the word ‘cavity’. I am also particularly enamoured of the afore-mentioned Teutonic war chant – which boasts a hefty-bearded improviser miming the construction of daisy chains while bellowing about being awash with blood. Yup, it is a good time. 

The improvised lyrics are impressive, with all of the featured soloists adroitly concocting amusing words and phrases. The majority of the cast handle the singing duties well, providing apt harmonies and amusing interjections with only a smattering of the expected pitching issues. There is a marked preference for musical theatre-style belting (with a sliver of Gospel hollering for good measure) and it would perhaps benefit the production to utilise a wider range of vocal expression. It should also be noted that some among the cast fall a bit short in diction and resonance, the result being that their very clever lyrics do get a little lost in a semi-intelligible haze.

The improvisers work together well, bouncing ideas back and forth with aplomb and generating good on-stage chemistry, with only a whiff of the grand-standing you tend to get with improvised comedy. 

Special credit must be laid before Robbie Ellis, fresh from Arts Festival Dunedin, who deftly switches between musical styles and synthesised instrumentation, quick on the uptake and cleverly anticipating the optimal musical direction in which to take each piece.

The production makes excellent use of the space: randomly scattered chairs and table lend the production a loose, casual feel, further pronounced by couching the participants as spontaneous audience volunteers. Amusingly, the lavish, full-cast finale reveals that the improvisers make up fractionally less than half the audience – although a list of the performers would have been wonderful.

The frequent and increasingly aggressive requests for ‘koha’ certainly capture the feel of a genuine church service.

All told, The Good God Singalong is a bawdy, irreverent hour of skilful improvisation. It’s fast, funny, a little lewd and ragged around the edges. There are no religious-grade revelations here to take home with you, but it sends you out into the deserted streets of Wellington with a smile curling your lips.


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