Broadway Shockers 2018: Ken Davenport's Warmed-Over Warm-Up
A Broadway producer makes his Broadway debut in Gettin' the Band Back Together.
As 2018 draws to a close, TheaterMania looks back on some of the most jaw-dropping stories of the year.
If you go to a TV show taping, you're likely to encounter a warm-up comedian. The job is self-explanatory: Get the studio audience in the mood for the show by encouraging vociferous reactions, telling bad jokes, and occasionally giving out unexpected prizes.
Broadway shows don't traditionally have warm-up artists. Occasionally, there will be a clever announcement asking people to turn off their cell phones. Sara Bareilles famously wrote a special song for just that purpose to be played before Waitress.
But at Gettin' the Band Back Together, an inauspicious musical that came and went this past summer, writer, producer, general manager, and marketer Ken Davenport made his Broadway acting debut by opening each performance with a warm-up routine. It was as meaningless as it sounds, but it ticked all three boxes.
Here are some excerpts from the script — because Davenport's routine was meticulously scripted, even though "The speech should be customized…and ad libbed":
"Hello, everyone! Welcome to Gettin' the Band Back Together!
[Wait for response.]
Come on, you can do better than that. You're not here to see The Iceman Cometh."
Encouraging vociferous reactions? Check. Telling bad jokes? Check.
And then he started asking audience members if they had ever been in an amateur garage band, as he once had, called "The Barely Manilows." (Another bad joke. Check.) He went on to look for "a man who raises his hand, preferably someone in his 40s-50s," who was willing to talk about his experiences and reveal the name of his former band.
Toward the end of the show, that random audience member was rewarded with an unexpected prize. He got to go onstage and interact with the cast. (Whether or not this is a good prize depends on how you feel about audience participation. Nonetheless, Check.)
After seeing how well Gettin' the Band Back Together did, it seems clear that we won't be seeing a Broadway audience warm-up again soon. But if we were, we'd recommend going the Sara Bareilles route. After all, it's "warm UP," not "warmed over."