The Play That Goes Wrong Stars Recall The Funniest Things They've Ever Seen in the Theatre
March 16th, 2017
by Josh Ferri
The knee-slapping, howling you hear in Times Square is coming from the Lyceum Theatre where the Olivier Award-winning farce The Play That Goes Wrong is making Broadway audiences laugh until they cry. Seriously.
BroadwayBox caught up with the stars of the show to find out from each of them: as an audience member, what play or musical made you laugh 'til you cried?
Henry Lewis (co-author, Robert Grove/Thomas Colleymore)
When I saw Noises Off as a kid, I remember laughing a lot. I remember what made me laugh the most in that was when they do knocking backstage in the second act. They all have to knock on a door upstairs but they are all downstairs. They take off their shoes and throw them up to the balcony to knock on the door—just as they do that, the guy on the other side of the door gives up and comes through the door, and all the shoes hit him right in the crotch and he falls back out the door. That was just fantastic.
Henry Shields (co-author, Chris Bean/Inspector Carter)
First time I saw Mischief Theatre perform Lights! Camera! Improvise! was one of the funniest things I’ve ever experienced. I joined the company a bit later, but the company started with this improv show, and it was one of the funniest, funniest hours of my life. I was sitting watching these guys who are now my friends performing this improvised movie (which is what the show was). I watched it with my sister and after the show I said, “I absolutely have to be doing this. This is what my life has to be—joining these guys." Then a couple months later, I did somehow manage to join, and now here we are and they are my closest friends—it’s all based on this one show years ago.
Jonathan Sayer (co-author, Dennis Tyde/Perkins)
I went to see a show this year at the Edinburgh Festival. It was a cabaret circus show and there was a man who came on to this very dramatic music. He had this Charles I restoration shirt on and these silver juggling balls that he juggled very, very well, but then every time he threw the ball up high his shirt rode up and he had no underwear on. He did it for six minutes, just walking around. Then he went up to audience members, and he straddled me and I had his junk (to use an American term) right in my face as he juggled. That slayed me. It was the perfect joke in many ways—it was so stupid but so, so surprising.
Charlie Russell (Sandra Wilkinson/Florence Colleymore)
I saw Bad Jews when it came to London at the Haymarket, and there was this moment where the non-Jewish girlfriend that came along decides to sing “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess—which is so cringeworthy in this day and age—and she sings it so operatically and perfectly. All the other characters sat there in complete stunned silence. In that moment I thought, “Brilliant! That’s really funny, now they’ll move on.” And they didn’t. They just insist and insist, and she continues to sing every verse of the song. By the end, I couldn’t watch it anymore; I had stomach cramps because they executed the cringeworthy nature perfectly. I lost my mind.
Dave Hearn (Max Bennett/Cecil Haversham & Arthur the Gardener)
I think The Book of Mormon is a good example. I like musicals but I’m not a big, big musical buff or fan, and the unapologetic, joyous, campness of Mormon really, really tickled me. The guy singing “Turn It Off” absolutely ruined me. It was the only time I genuinely sat in a theatre mesmerized and crying with laughter. It really, really got me. The bit where they switched the waistcoats, and it gets more camp, and it keeps building and building. It was so brilliantly done.
Greg Tannahill (Jonathan Harris/Charles Haversham)
I don’t remember the title of it, but it was at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland and there was no dialogue at all. It was all done by mime and physical theatre, and yet it was hilarious. No words needed. All the images he was trying to create were so clear, and he was making the entire audience laugh really, really hard. It was absolutely amazing. I was amazed that I was laughing like that at just his physicality.
Nancy Zamit (Annie Twilloil)
One was watching Nathan Lane and Lee Evans do The Producers. Something happened and it all went wrong, and they completely improvised a scene together. It was maybe the best thing I’ve ever seen ever happen on stage ever. It was absolutely hysterical. The audience went mental. They just riffed on each other for five whole minutes, and I couldn’t believe how lucky I was to be there.
Rob Falconer (Trevor Watson)
Seeing Jerry Springer The Opera for the first time. I lost my shit during the tap-dancing Ku Klux Klan. I was like, “That is ridiculous!” A 20-person chorus, white-hooded up and giving it a soft shoe. I remember just aching.
Matthew Cavendish (troupe member)
It was when I saw The Book of Mormon on the West End. I saw the very first preview on the West End and there was so much excitement. We queued for hours. I just think it’s one of the best opening numbers to any musical. It was just brilliant. I remember particularly the first half laughing a lot.
Byrony Corrigan (troupe member)
For me it would have to be Noises Off. My brain went to that immediately. I went when I was little, and I remember howling with laughter. It was the first farce that I had seen—and this play is very much inspired by what goes on in Noises Off. Watching the first act then them turning the set round and watching it all from there. I thought it was so clever and genuinely one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen.
See the hilarious gang live in 'The Play That Goes Wrong' at Broadway's Lyceum Theatre.