iConfess is a musical that bizarrely almost foils its own success by stumbling at the first step, namely billing itself as a musical. Had it called itself a play and proceeded accordingly, it would have been really very good: clever and witty with talented actors, and a great concept of having the audience scribble down their secrets to use to drive the improvised plot. With pretty much no scenery (and obviously planning on the hoof), the actors are inventive and quirky. The principal audience secret which drove the performance (“I used to eat ice cream out of the community freezer”) led to strong and creative stories about a homeless center volunteer stealing a charity’s ice cream, and a cult where there was no such thing as “I”. While it would have been much better had they used more of the audience’s ‘confessions’, the cast created good narrative arcs, which were pulled together – albeit rather loosely – at the end. But all of this good stuff is rather undermined by the inexplicable decision to choose to put on a musical with actors who largely can’t hold a tune, and a score that doesn’t even give them a chance.
Perhaps the risk comes in improvising not just the plot and the lyrics, but also the score. Of course there are techniques for meeting this challenge (not least appropriating pre-existing tunes), but for pure improv, that’s probably considered cheating… But this approach meant that the actors continuously struggled with discordant notes and the result repeatedly made the audience visibly wince as the show progressed. This was something of a dampener.
So all of this adds up to a conflicting experience. You take your chances. You’re clearly not guaranteed toe-tapping numbers, but the spontaneity of improv means that you might get them. However, you probably are guaranteed a clever concept that’s wittily executed. Worth going to, but for the play and the concept, not necessarily for the music.
For more information on the show and to purchase tickets, read this Fringe Preview.