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Go Comedy!’s latest Thursday-night offering, Menllenium, was originally a product of the Second City improvisation conservatory, and its ingrained sketch-comedy feel is well suited for the quirky and fast-moving Thursday grab bag of scripted and improvised shows. This reimagined production, now directed by Tommy LeRoy, doesn’t seek to do anything groundbreaking with subject matter or form; instead, it relies on keen writing and a strong ensemble to unearth a well of comedy in the rise and fall of a circa-2000 boy band. The one-hour Behind The Music–style show hits all the familiar beats, but shines with a hardworking team of writer/improvisers that works with the medium to showcase its own strengths.

Our heroes’ story follows the mold of so many popular artists’ biographies: a humble quartet of high school football teammates is discovered by the music biz, gets rocketed to superstardom, mishandles newfound fame and unchecked egos, and parts ways after seemingly petty differences turn irreconcilable. Written by the ensemble, the scenes are a selective bunch of representative vignettes that establish the characters of Marcus (Tommy Simon), Kevin (Andrew Seiler), JaySon (Micah Caldwell), and Justin Dance (Clint Lohman) and allow them to react to new situations. Happily, although each character has an identifying type (playboy, narcissist, rebel, and gay), most don’t live exclusively within these descriptors, making the scenes feel playful and inventive instead of formulaic. An absolute highlight of these sketches finds the boys discussing contract negotiations with football coach turned manager Sarge (Ryan Parmenter), establishing the game of the scene and then methodically piling on to absurd heights of humor. The ensemble members are sharply attuned to one another, and it shows in the writing: jokes of all stripes and sensibilities are laid down in rapid succession, too numerous and varied to be the product of a single mind.

Offsetting the scenes are concert performances of the groups’ highly sexual and deliriously inappropriate songs (also written by the cast, along with Ryan Garnes and Ben Mullins), about a half-dozen similar-sounding tunes with no shortage of euphemism and youthful horniness. Rarely without their pop-star microphones (either hooked over one ear or slung across a shoulder when not in use), the group’s lyrics are amplified over the hyperproduced canned music, although a few words and lines are still prone to getting lost in the cacophony. The singing performances are passable across the board, with the standout being Caldwell’s oft-employed falsetto.

The show finds a solid framework in a series of integrated videos, featuring interviews with each character, spot-on understatement narration, photo montages, and amateur footage of stadium crowds that serves as a lead-in to each number. The exposition and timeline of the videos in conjunction with the scenes seems to be intentionally obscure, jumping from 2005 to 2002 and elsewhere all while using reference points that didn’t exist at those times. Viewers trying to place the trajectory of Menllenium into actual history are apt to be frustrated, but as a device, this puzzling combination of timely and timeless lends the group a favorable Everyboyband quality.

Four young men trying to exude cool while performing cheesy synchronized choreography in all-white costumes is never not funny, but Menllenium does not rely solely on its premise. Despite drawing on a phenomenon that’s been used as comic fodder in The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live and spawned honest-to-goodness parody bands, this production’s playful exploration of character and punchline demonstrates that the concept still offers a wealth of laughs when executed with precision. There’s no clear weak link in this blend of sketch, song, and video, making for a thoughtfully composed show that unearths humor wherever it can, more often than not to great effect.


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