Review: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

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The Showstoppers team do something impossible.  Every night they create a brand new musical as a special one-off performance for that night’s audience.  Characters, choreography and catchy songs all created off-the-cuff to an incredibly high standard. Amazing.

The show is hosted by Dylan Emery, portraying a theatre director in desperate need of a new musical.  Under his guidance the audience supplies six different musical styles they’d like to hear – in this performance ranging from the hip-hop of “Hamilton” to the wonderfully vague “Spanish” – as well as a location and title for the musical.  Given these inputs, the team then works together to put on a dazzling first half which somehow marries all the suggestions together into a single coherent story.  The audience tweet more suggestions during the interval, and these are used in the second half to build to the story to its climax.

This particular musical was set in a fish-related theme park called “Fin-land”, a tale of a guy, a girl, a mother, her lover and a French oceanographer called Fabien.  The guy and the girl had followed their dream in building the theme park together, and in the process he had fallen in love with her and they looked destined to marry.  Her mother wasn’t happy about this, a mixture of her own frustrations with life and the feeling her daughter could do better.  Under this pressure, and following a desire for adventure, the daughter turned down the marriage proposal and went exploring with the sleazy Frenchman, creating a cliffhanger ending to the first half.

Each character was wonderfully portrayed and the storytelling was superb.  I can believe some people wouldn’t believe this was improvised as everything hung together so well.  But the secret to such success is not in preparing what to do in advance.  Rather it is in having a squad of performers so talented that they can do pretty much anything.  Ruth Bratt shone through in this performance as the overbearing mother who continuously made the audience laugh, sang and danced a flamenco and seamlessly turned a lecture to her daughter into a rhythmic rap.  And yet on a different night any other cast member might be called upon to do such things, meaning there is more breadth and depth of talent here than in any other show I’ve seen.

The Showstoppers are currently touring the UK

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