Caitlin Puckett and Calvin Cole are sitting onstage, recounting the details of their romance. The stage is set for Your Love, Our Musical at Peoples Improv Theater on a warm May night, with hosts Rebecca Vigil and Evan Kaufman inviting an unassuming couple up on the stage, interviewing them about how they met, fell for each other, etc., then improvising a half-hour musical about that very love story. Where improvised comedy in general and improvised musical comedy in particular can get painfully, embarrassingly stilted, Vigil and Kaufman’s hour-long show is bombastic, clean, and ever hysterical. They’ve mastered the art form, their chemistry as artists (they are not a couple in real life) as much a part of the show as the chemistry behind the couple they feature.
Puckett and Cole begin revealing their story, having met at a medical alarm company (the I’ve-fallen-and-can’t-get-up type, where people call in for assistance), its cubicles tiny and surveillance cameras watching those working there, always. They were friends first. Puckett was in a long-distance relationship with a slightly depressive man named Justin when she realized their connection wasn’t the real deal. She broke it off with Justin, and she and Cole got together the very same night. Cole brought over the winning trifecta: wine, cheese, and Muppet Treasure Island. When asked who said “I love you” first, the couple admit that the answer is unclear. What was clear was they didn’t necessarily need to. The two clicked so hard, says Cole, “it was just understood.”
Vigil and Kaufman riff off of each other throughout their interpretation of Puckett and Cole’s origin story. In their musical version, Puckett and Cole meet in North Korea (or a torture chamber, or an internment camp, depending on when in the show), their first night together introduced (by accompanying pianist and music director Dan Reitz) with the Muppet Show theme song and the musical’s closing number harking back to their first ever (or lack of) “I love you,” a song called “Our Love Is Better Unsaid.”
The audience, a full room that night, is in hysterics, laughing loudly throughout and sometimes cutting real moments with audible shock. At the end of the show, Puckett and Cole are ecstatic.
“I’m upset that I haven’t come before now,” he says. Both Cole and Puckett have done comedy and improv around New York, and know the challenges that come with it. “I’m struggling to think of something more impressive.”
On the next page: “Love is that thing…” [
“When done with any level of competence,” says PIT artistic director Kevin Laibson about musical improv, “it looks like a magic trick.” When true professionals like Vigil and Kaufman take it on, he says, “it’s like watching miracles.”
Conceived of by Vigil and her original partner, David Magidoff (who now hosts MTV’s Broke A$$ Game Show) under the names Journey and Your Musical, the show borrows heavily from musical theater.
“The format of a musical is a narrative, generally,” says Vigil about the bones of the show. “Introduction of the characters, introduction of the conflict, climax of the conflict, resolution. The things we take from musical theater as a genre are the campy nature of musicals, but we do it in a self-aware, tongue-in-cheek tone. We try to make the music a little more funky and soulful than the traditional Broadway ballads. We [also] find it very important to have sincere moments to really celebrate and illustrate that this couple is in love.”
She and Magidoff would originally perform the show at bridal showers and weddings on the West Coast. Then, in 2009, after winning $100,000 on game show Don’t Forget the Lyrics, Vigil moved to New York.
Slowly building a repertoire here and always leaning on musical comedy (she does stand-up and sings in a band, too), Vigil would need a few years to find the right match to revive Your Love, Our Musical. Visiting friends at the Improv Asylum in Boston, she saw Kaufman perform and felt a real click.
“I was like, that guy,” she says. “It’s that guy.” Several months later, he, too, would move to New York, and Vigil would invite him to start up the show. They’ve been performing every month at the PIT for a year, quickly becoming New York Times and Time Out New York critics’ picks and recently getting accepted to this summer’s Fringe Festival.
“Love is just that thing,” says Vigil, reflecting on the success of the show and why people keep coming back. It’s that thing that people love to love and love to hear stories about. And, of course, it probably doesn’t hurt to have two incredibly adept singer-comedians telling these stories.
Your Love, Our Musical takes places once a month at the PIT, with its next performance scheduled for June 26.
This article was updated to reflect that YLOM was started in NYC in 2014. The productions in LA went by Journey and Your Musical.