So the legendary Second City comedy troupe chose to sit out this year's Miami Improv Festival. A loss, no doubt, but hardly a deterrent; with six more troupes than last year's festival (including the Groundlings, the alma mater of megastars like Will Ferrell and the late Phil Hartman), the five-day, 28-troupe event is a potpourri of impromptu skits, long-form plays, song parodies, and even several workshops.
Presented by Miami-based improv theater company Just the Funny, the MIF kicks off Wednesday night with local yukrakers Gated Community. The Jupiter-based six-piece features Frank Licari, owner/director of the Atlantic Theater and a former member of the Blue Man Group. Licari's been in more than 40 stage plays from New York City to Chicago, but he's still got a soft spot for improv. "Unlike classic theater scenarios, where the audience sits back and observes the story as a spectator, improv demands that the audience be an active participant," he says. "You never know what kind of show it's going to be."
Actually, we do. Well, we know the theme -- "Rock You Like a Hurricane," based on 2004's overly busy hurricane season (the irony of giving said show in the city of FEMA boondoggles notwithstanding).
Other local acts include Hollywood's Joystick -- two average Joes who contemplate life while playing Pac-Man -- and West Palm Beach's Mod 27, who are probably glad they don't need a plane for this gig, having taken part in similar events in Texas and Toronto. Plus, being locals, they get to join other SoFla groups for Wednesday night's South Florida Improv Jam, a multitroupe improv-along.
And for actors looking to improve their improv, instructors hold workshops on character, singing, scene work, directing, and that all-important comedic skill, physicality (yes, there is a proper way to pratfall). The MIF takes place Wednesday, February 2, to Sunday, February 6, at the Miami Museum of Science and Planetarium (3280 S. Miami Ave., Miami). Tickets cost $10 to $25. Call 866-468-7630, or visit www.miamiimprovfestival.com. -- Jason Budjinski
Soul it Goes
When it comes to the various projects we deal with, a lot of things come to mind -- school projects, work projects, your fourth-grade science-fair project. But when musicians refer to themselves as a project, the result is often something special. That's definitely the case with SoulXpres, an eclectic group hitting the stage Saturday at Sonar Nite Club (2006 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood). The project began in fall 1998 when a group of friends -- who had been working together for several years -- decided it was time to add their own unique flavor to the world stage. The result was the soulful single "Commit to Me," which was released nationally in 2000 by Fort Lauderdale-based KIKI Records. The song garnered rave reviews for the guys, and deservedly so. With a distinct sound highlighted by musical theater veteran and vocal diva Nifa Spraggins and the rich voice of Dennis Baker, SoulXpres' project continues to receive high marks. Does it deserve an A? Come judge for yourself. The night kicks off at 10 with the soulful house and garage sounds of DJ Ray Benson. The cost is $10. Call 954-920-8777, or visit www.sonarniteclub.com. -- Paul Leone
Rappin' for God
Proof is in the representin'
Can there be more to hip-hop than sex, drugs, and violence? For those of you seeking a little salvation from your MC, Souljourn Ministries, Palm Beach County's Jesus rapper connection/urban ministry, offers you Proof, Saturday's free hip-hop concert. Performers include New York City rapper Shabach; South Florida reggae artists Irie-Pent; young, local hip-hop group C.R.U.; and Souljourn regular DJ Morphiziz. You'd expect Christian hip-hop to deviate from standard gangsta bling materialism and instead focus on a kinder, gentler world. But don't be mistaken. Although there's less f**king s**t in the lyrics, holy hip-hoppers aren't substituting warm and fuzzy reflections of sun-drenched spring meadows. These guys may be about representin' Jesus, but they're still talking about urban war. Except the opposing gang leader just happens to be Satan, and the Bible takes the place of the gun. Proof takes place 7 p.m. at Palm Beach Atlantic University's W.G. Lassiter Student Center (Okeechobee Boulevard and Olive Avenue, West Palm Beach). Call 561-827-0470. -- Dave Amber
Shake That Pot Belly
Unemployed cockney steelworkers turned jobless upstate New Yorkers strip down to their dingy underwear to pay for beer, rent, and food right here in Coral Springs -- well, at Thursday's production of The Full Monty at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts (2855 Coral Springs Dr.). No one knows why playwright Terrence McNally moved the movie setting to Buffalo instead of the Midwest (which has had more than its share of unemployed American steelworkers), but the unsophisticated, flabby-bodied lads shake their groove things with more embarrassment than rhythm. Don't expect any pole-dancing or Chippendale boy babes (or any bodies you want to see bare). Composer/lyricist David Yazbek likens the play to a sports story: "It's a bunch of guys who get together and form a team." Show starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets cost $53 to $63.60. Call 954-344-5990. -- Karen Dale Wolman