Review: “The Second City Guide to the Symphony”

Shawn Stalter

●      Contributing Critic - Dallas/Ft. Worth

What do you get when you cross the diverse talents of a top-tier improv comedy troupe with a world-class symphony orchestra? You get a dynamic and entertaining performance which peels back the thin veneer of stuffiness and intellectual snobbery associated with the symphony to reveal the rich textures of humanity beneath.

In “The Second City Guide to the Symphony,” conductor Case Scaglione paired the superb musical talent of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra (DSO) with comedic powerhouses from Second City. Together, they delivered a performance which carved out distinctive and uniquely-entertaining territory equally appealing to both classical music buffs and improv comedy fans alike.

Set to the stunning backdrop of the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center stage, the celebrated Second City comedy troupe broke down the barriers which often separate the musicians from the audience they tirelessly entertain. With an intimately-hilarious exploration of the stereotypes and subjects associated with the symphony, classical composers and more, this dynamic duo team delivered uproarious sketch comedy, epic rap battles, witty musical numbers, excellent vocal stylings and lively improv. Although comedians to the core, this troupe’s astonishing vocal talent accentuated the performance and was well-matched to both the venue and the accompaniment from DSO.

Equal parts sketch comedy, improv and classical music, “The Second City Guide to the Symphony” capitalized on the symphony’s musical talents to highlight comedic material focused on hilariously-socially awkward situations one encounters when attending the symphony. With a wide range of numbers including, Life Is a Symphony, Curse of Immorality, You’re Late, They Have Names, Bach Off and more, “The Second City Guide to the Symphony” provided a healthy dose of high-brow classical music cultural references, but laced it with a potent mixture of dark humor and satire which made it palatable even to those not well-versed in symphonic works. Maestro Scaglione even traded his conductor’s baton for a comedic shtick alongside the comedy troupe in Branding Exercise.

Overall, DSO’s alliance with Second City proved to be a highly functioning marriage of comedy and classical music where each partner retained the brilliance and unique signature which make them shine.

“The Second City Guide to the Symphony” is co-written by Carly Heffernan, Scott Montgomery, Matthew Reid and Klaus Schuller and includes original music composed by Matthew Reid. Directed by Chris Earle, it features the talented musicians of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Case Scaglione and includes the dynamic comedic talents of Second City ensemble members Carly Heffernan, Ashley Botting, Marty Adams, Allison Price, Darryl Hinds and Connor Thompson.

Reserve a seat for one of DSO’s upcoming events by visiting them at You can also learn more about the world-class comedy troupe, Second City’s performances in Chicago, Toronto, Hollywood and beyond at

Photo courtesy of Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center