A man strikes a pose onstage, pointing to the audience

Rob Schiffmann Uncovers the Secrets of Improv: Broadway’s Next Hit Musical

This summer, the Tony Awards are coming to Denver! Sorry…we mean the PHONY Awards! Broadway’s Next Hit Musical will arrive at the Garner Galleria Theatre on June 12. This hilarious improvised show will take audience suggestions and turn them into spontaneous scenes and songs from never-before-seen musicals. Audience members can then vote on their favorites to receive Tony…sorry…Phony Awards.

A man sits at a piano, wearing a red suit.

Broadway’s Next Hit Musical. Photo by Nick Carter

Director and cast member Rob Schiffmann sat down with the DCPA to uncover some improvisational secrets and to explain why audiences love the show.

DCPA: What made you lean into improvisation?

Schiffmann: I have always been someone who loves to play, and play is what improvisation is all about. When you are improvising with people, you are essentially playing together to create worlds, relationships, ideas, dialogue, songs, and anything else that can exist in front of an audience. And you do this by accepting the ideas of others. It’s what many kids do naturally when they are playing together in the sand box.

I think I continue to gravitate towards improvisation because I have learned that as I get older, there are many things that try to pull me out of the moment and make me worry about a future or a past moment. Improvisation requires a level of presence that can then permeate the rest of your life and keep you living in the moment throughout your day to day.

DCPA: What do you find fun or interesting about improvised shows like Broadway’s Next Hit Musical?

A group of performers sing onstage. They are wearing old-timey costumes and hats thrown on over their regular clothes

Broadway’s Next Hit Musical. Photo by Nick Carter

Schiffmann: No one in the room — not the audience or the improvisers — have any idea what is going to happen when they enter the room. However, that’s the creative process. For example, when a songwriter enters a room to write a song, they usually have no idea what they are going to come out with. Then, maybe a few hours later they come out with a verse, a chorus, or maybe even a full song. They had the opportunity to go back and change things, throw things out and try new things but in the end, they had a product. The same is true with improvisation. The only difference is we can’t go back so we MUST accept what we get. Therefore, by definition, we have to say “yes.” THAT is exciting.

DCPA: Which is easier: improvising music or improvising dialogue?

Schiffmann: They are equally easy as long as you are willing to accept what comes out of your mouth and follow it to where it leads you next.

A woman sings into a microphone on a stand. She is wearing a black silk dress

Broadway’s Next Hit Musical. Photo by Nick Carter

That said, dialogue means nothing without the emotion behind it. You have to allow yourself to be present enough to let yourself feel whatever it is you are feeling without judgement. Then you can express that dialogue in a truthful manner, which will allow you and your scene partner(s) to respond to it in an organic way.

On the other hand, lyrics are nothing without melody, which is nothing without music, which is nothing without the emotion that drove that music, which came from the emotion of the scene, which was born of the interaction between the scene partners, which came from what they were feeling in the moment, which was based on how they each organically felt individually.

So, the real answer is, they are one and the same.

Ugh, what an obnoxious answer. Let’s just go with dialogue.

DCPA: What can audiences expect from Broadway’s Next Hit Musical?

A man strikes a pose onstage, pointing to the audience

Broadway’s Next Hit Musical. Photo by Nick Carter

Schiffmann: They can expect a fun, family friendly, hilarious experience where the actors, musician and emcee on stage will all be playing with each other and with the audience to create something completely unique to that evening and for that audience. It will be super fun and everyone will be in on the joke. They will walk away saying ,“I saw my cousin in an improv show and it was fun but I’ve NEVER seen anything like THIS!” (Then their aunt will read this article and send it to their cousin and the in-fighting will begin.)

DCPA: Does someone have to be a Broadway fan to get the jokes/music?

Schiffmann: Not in the slightest. This is comedy for everyone. We have played all over the country to audiences of all ages, backgrounds, sizes, and smells, and there is no one demographic that seems to enjoy us more or less than another.

DCPA: Do you have a favorite memory from a certain performance or a memorable song?

Schiffmann: There are so many, but I do remember a show in Massachusetts where I got the song “The Electric Fire Breathing Unicorn Experience.” I said it was from the musical Hazed, which was a musical about a freshman in college who was trying to pledge at a fraternity and they only had one more ritual they had to do but when they learned what it was, they were faced with a quandary: were they willing to go too far or face the system to make real change?!!?

That was a super fun one.

Broadway’s Next Hit Musical
June 12 – 30, 2024 • Garner Galleria Theatre