Things to Do

This Comedy Group Improvs Hip-Hop Musicals Based on Historical Figures

Just don't ask them to do Hamilton.

Baby Wants Candy might be the most well-read improv group on the planet. In every one of their shows, the troupe is responsible for creating an on-the-spot hip-hop musical based on a historical figure of the audience’s choice, which requires a breadth of historical knowledge ranging from Jane Austen to Genghis Khan. Before their DC show, we tested group member Al Samuel’s chops, asking him to sketch out musical plots on historical characters of our choosing.

Vlad the Impaler

The opening number, there would be a bunch of raps about how even though it seems like all he wants is blood, what he really wants is a “close bud” of some sort. And the hook might be Vlad singing “I’m Vlad, I’m bad,” and then something about how life “sucks.” The first scene could be him meeting the villain, maybe it’s a werewolf or Frankenstein’s monster. Or maybe those are his friends. I think the show would be him trying to teach people that vampires are just like everybody else, they shouldn’t be a minority that people are being prejudiced toward just because they happen to feast on the living.

Tutankhamun

He would probably have a love story with Cleopatra. In the opening number, the hook could be “pyramid scheme.” One of the things that I loved in “Hamilton” was [them] showing what happened to the world after he died. So at the end [there] could be a beautiful number about all the things he learned during the show while we’re putting him into his gold sarcophagus. And maybe we would wheel that character around the stage and the audience because he’s being displayed. And maybe the closing number would be something like, “No Ifs, Ands, and Tuts.” 

Rosa Parks

What’s great about doing a show on Rosa Parks, I think the audience would at first be like, “uh oh, what is this gonna be.” But I think we would do it very nobly. At the opening number, we would have one person after another stepping up and getting out of their seat, and then she just stays there. Maybe the opening number hook is “I’m gonna ‘Park’ it here.” I don’t know how political you would want to get, but I think Rosa Parks having somebody from a current political thing [as a nemesis] would be really fun. Maybe somebody who’s in or around the Oval Office these days. One of her songs could be “this bus ain’t gonna stop” when she’s talking about how she’s going to change the world. Martin Luther King could be involved, he could be one of the mentor characters and tell her “I’m the King but you’re the Queen,” as a fun rap song.

Marie Curie

We’d have to have something in the opening number about how “she just radiates light.” I think what’s so fun about that is we get to comment on women and science and education, and make comments like, “Luckily once we solve these problems around gender, I’m sure they’ll be solved forever.” Her [nemesis] could be another well-known science figure of the time. Like maybe Thomas Edison. That would be so fun, there’s so many things that rhyme with radiate and radium. One thing we’d play with a lot is her being so sure that none of this stuff was going to cause her any health problems whatsoever, we’d just keep hammering that home. Like, “Should you be wearing protective gear?” “This stuff is harmless, we know that! What could happen?”

“Baby Wants Candy” will be at the Kennedy Center’s Studio K at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 20. Tickets can be purchased here.

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Jane Recker
Assistant Editor

Jane is a Chicago transplant who now calls Cleveland Park her home. Before joining Washingtonian, she wrote for Smithsonian Magazine and the Chicago Sun-Times. She is a graduate of Northwestern University, where she studied journalism and opera.