Remember the fun (and devastation) your old choose-your-own-adventure books? Well imagine getting to call the shots, not for a character in a book, but with an entirely real cast of stage performers! That’s exactly what Undecided: A Multiple Choice Musical is bringing to Fringe World 2021, where audiences, accompanied by a live pianist, can take part in creating a fun and completely original choose-our-own-adventure story live on stage. The result is a show offering a totally different experience every night in its run from Monday, January 25 until Sunday, January 30 at Rehearsal Room 1 at State Theatre Centre of WA (get more info and tickets here). MICHAEL HOLLICK talked to the members of the Undecided team; John McPherson (writer, director, performer), James Marzec (performer), James Palm (writer) and Em Honey (performer) to find out more.
How would you describe your show in your own words?
JMc: Ever seen a musical; but not quite sure where the show should travel? How about you decide for the performers and see your choices unravel?
JM: Four deeply flawed people collide at the fabled Fortune Tower, comedic songs are sung, and through a live voting system, the audience decides their fates.
JP: A chaotic experiment. A fascinating peek into the hearts and minds of a musical theatre audience.
EH: Terrifying for the cast, hilarious for the audience.
And who do you think will enjoy Undecided: A Multiple Choice Musical the most?
JM: Voyeurs with a perverse desire to shape the lives of total strangers.
JP: Anyone who loves musicals, especially. John has written a stellar soundtrack, so prepare to be humming these songs for days.
EH: People who enjoy being in control, people who have had a few drinks with dinner beforehand, people who enjoy musical theatre and cabaret but would like it more if they could steer the plot as they watch.
What were your favourite multiple choice books to read as a kid? Are these still your favourites?
JMc: Goosebumps: Escape from the Carnival of Horrors (1995). I mean, who didn’t smash R. L. Stine in the 90s as a kid? It’s still my favorite to read today; it was the first multiple-choice Goosebumps book, and it was the first time I learnt that I weighed less on Mars. Who knew?
JP: I also loved those Goosebumps choose-your-own-adventure books. After you turn about 15, those books become less socially acceptable, unfortunately. These days I play RPG video games like Dark Souls or Persona for my interactive storytelling fix, which for an adult male are obviously completely socially acceptable.
EH: I have never read a multiple choice book…and I think it shows. Quizzes are fun though.
How long have you been preparing for Fringe 2021?
JM: Spiritually? All my life. Practically? About six weeks.
JMc: In early 2020 I was musical director for a production called I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change. It’s now going on at Downstairs at The Maj a year later in May 2021! As plans were put on hiatus, along with every other individual’s plans for 2020, Undecided began pre-production in August and a script was completed throughout September and October. With the first readthrough at the end of November, our cast of four only had a tight eight-week rehearsal schedule throughout December and January. And since I wrote the music, and the show is only accompanied by this big-fat buffoon on the piano, the band is already ready to go!
What do you think differentiates your show from the other Fringe 2021 shows?
EH: The inclusion of the audience as plot writers, shifters, deviants… This is audience participation in a very modern “behind the screen” format which is logistically terrifying for the cast and crew. It’s kind of like the audience are internet trolls that we invited to our musical social media to mess with us. Self-sabotaging? Maybe. Hilarious? Yes.
JM: The innovation of the live voting system means that the actors have to prepare for essentially five to six major divergences which change the outcome of the show. It makes for a chaotic but entertaining night of musical theatre.
JP: This is technically an interactive show, but the audience does not need to get up onstage to participate. I’ve attended so many Fringe shows where interactivity scares the crap out of people, but with our show, the audience controls the proceedings from the safety of their seat. Which is probably in line with current distancing laws also.
And finally, what fruit is your show most like? And why?
EH: A banana. Everyone likes it differently… Greenish? Yellow? Brown spots?
JM: A tomato. No one knows exactly how it should be classified, but it goes well with just about everything.
JP: A red pepper. It might seem intimidating at first, and not everyone can handle the spiciness. But the flavour awaiting you is unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
JMc: A fruit salad all can share! Funny story – this question is actually asked during our show! So our audience will get to decide their response also!