Pick a Song, Any Song!

Local act The Human Jukebox offers up a fun night, but the audience can make or break the performance

The Human Jukebox is a performance by Gail Whitmore, who is a local act here in Prague. With her impressive category of songs (knowing over 2000 by heart), she delivers a humorous performance interlaced with natural dialogue. For some, it may not be their cup of tea, but others will be able to connect to the humor of seeing Baby Got Back or Limp Bizkit’s Nookie performed a cappella. This is not to say that every piece performed was silly, because she also possesses a beautiful singing voice, as she belted out Meat Loaf lyrics and Bohemian Rhapsody with ease. It seemed Whitmore had a funny little anecdote for almost every song she performed, so one also gets to see a bit of storytelling for their money. 

Whitmore romps across the stage full of confidence no matter how absurd or ridiculous the material she’s performing is. It must take a hell of a lot of guts to get up and perform a cappella for a full hour with out ever having the backing of musical assistance, aside from the scattered singing of audience members who occasionally joined in a sing-a-long. While some members of the audience may not enjoy every bit (i.e. there may be an older couple in front of you who aren’t appreciating the Salt-n-Peppa rendition) there is still a lot of fun to be had in this performance. 

I guess that this goes to say that the amount of enjoyment you take from the Human Jukebox may be entirely dependent on the audience. If they pick crap songs and don’t participate in the singing and dialogue, then it probably won’t be as fun. However, if the crowd is into it and collectively know the songs being performed, then everyone will be singing, laughing, and having a good time. So, this is one of those shows that depends a lot on set and setting, and if you go see it you are taking a gamble on the audience. 

Don’t fear though, this is a local performance worth catching, so if you can’t make it to see the performance at Fringe, the Human Jukebox performs year round right here in Prague.  This performance appeals most to 20 and 30 somethings who will fondly reminisce on the classic R & B of the nineties, and may feel a flood of nostalgia, which leads them to start tapping their feet, clapping their hands and singing along with Whitmore.

The filler never fails either. She has a comforting and friendly stage presence that exudes self-awareness, and likewise, an awareness of her audience. She made the onlookers entirely aware of just how much fun the set could be, but if you want a performer that is going to cater the laughs to you, you may want to look elsewhere, because without an active and participating audience, the show won’t have the same appeal. 

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The highlight of the show was when she did medley songs that the audience passed up on slips of paper for Whitmore to sing. She could go from Amazing Grace to Paparazzi within twenty seconds, and this portion of the performance lasts over ten minutes. The spontaneity of it will have audience members in tears. Though not every transition works from song to song, sometimes the timing is perfect. When it lands it lands.

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Some songs may pull on your heart strings, while others could bore you to tear because you have never heard them in your life. It is a risk one has to take if they decide to check out the Human Jukebox at this year’s Fringe Festival. In conclusion, though this is a good show, it doesn’t necessarily have to make it onto your “must-see Fringe” list, because it is a local act which you can see year around, and the variables make the performance hit or miss.

– Mason Parker, Prague Film & Theater Center

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