Live Review: Off Book Podcast Recording

off book live index

King’s Place, King’s Cross, London, 15/09/2019.

Until yesterday I wasn’t aware of the Off Book podcast where they improvise a full hour long musical each episode, and I only went along to the recording after previous plans fell through and I had nothing to do on that hot lazy Sunday afternoon. I can’t even begin to say how glad I am that happened as I’m now madly in love with the podcast, and both Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino who created it along with pianist Scott Passarella, though as he wasn’t able to travel tonight Jordan Clarke provided the quite delightful music.

Normally the podcast has a special guest (PauL F. Tompkins takes part in the first ever episode, for example) but for this live recording in London it was just the duo and Scott, however I’ve no complaints in the slightest given how impressive they were. After taking an idea from an audience member as to what the musical could be about for the following hour we were given quite frankly amazing song after amazing song, I’ve no idea how they manage to do it as each was a hummable hit that made me wish the musical really did exist and that I could see it night after night. The lyrics were not only very funny but also engaging and smart, McKenna and Reino took on a number of different roles with aplomb, and they created a musical that I became completely absorbed by, with the beautiful vocals being the icing on this all rather gorgeous cake.

Set in the old west it saw the son of a fairly poor family, Jebediah, discover and make friends with a flying horse (named Peter, but played by a horse called Marcus) who was hanging about Jebediah’s farm after he’d failed the tried and tested Pegasus initiation of being kicked off of a cloud. Meanwhile Jebediah’s mother was struggling with all of her housework, washing clothes especially, and the only daughter of the family went for a walk with one of the nine eligible men in the town, and shockingly held hands with him on their very first date.

As much fun as the antics of the extended family were it was the adventures of Peter and Jebediah that made for the highlights of the hour, with a song about the joys of big things (and the annoyances of small things) being a real barnstormer, but this was such an inventive creation that almost as good were a number involving the creation of the washing machine, one which contained a discussion of where the various family members might be, and another saw other Pegasus’s (or Pegasii) revolutionise their educational system. Because it’s that kind of joyous madness that never stopped delighting while being completely unpredictable.

After the musical they performed  a brief Q&A with the audience, and for once the questions were pretty inspired, Q&A’s can be mundane or tiresome a lot of the time but I’m guessing the questions were asked by longtime fans of the podcast as they were witty and smart, and rather than being directed at Jessica and Zach themselves they were questions for either the cast members, Hollywood producers, the show’s historian, or the costume designer, and each and every time Zach and Jessica rose to the occasion and gave very funny answers. And then right at the end we were given one last song, a supposedly cut number, because this was the gift that kept on giving.

A podcast recording which was an absolute delight from start to finish, Jessica McKenna and Zach Reino have the kind of mind’ that I’m infinitely jealous of and their skill with both improvising and singing is something I wish I could absorb, leaving me ridiculously talented and them soulless husks. Sadly science has yet to come along with a device to allow me to do this so for the time being I’ll have to make do with listening to the podcast, and if you’ve any interest in musical comedy I’m convinced after hearing it you’ll love it so much that you’ll start work on a machine to steal their abilities too.

★★★★ 1/2

Alex Finch.
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Related Link:
Off Book’s Official Site.

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