Monday, 12 October 2015

Comedy review: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

A couple of months ago I first took Evil Alex to Mischief Theatre's improv show Lights! Camera! Improvise! On being told they ask the audience for genre suggestions, he wanted to know if they ever do a musical (they don't, although they usually do a song somewhere along the way.) It wasn't long after that I found out Alex was going to get his wish, as another company were going to bring their improvised show to the West End; and the Showstopper! team's USP is that they exclusively make up musicals. On the spot, a new one every night. Dylan Emery acts as master of ceremonies and takes suggestions of a theme and style from the audience. Tonight we ended up with a show about NASA called Rock-It (a pun the woman who suggested it hadn't quite intended, but she got a mug as a reward anyway.) The last two Mischief shows we saw were also sci-fi, so if that's what audiences keep voting for there's obviously an untapped market somewhere.

From a rotating cast, tonight's team of Ruth Bratt, Pippa Evans, Susan Harrison, Andrew Pugsley, Oliver Senton and Sarah-Louise Young were given styles they had to incorporate into the show including flamenco and a Gigi pastiche.

As usual with an improvised show the whole point is that I can't tell you what to expect, even the cast don't know that. But they are clearly well-practiced in what they do, as well as having an encyclopaedic knowledge of musical theatre - when someone suggested Sondheim as a musical style, Emery asked for a specific show because letting the cast choose from his many different styles was making it too easy on them (Company was what we got in the end.) The pastiches, which tonight also included London Road and an In The Heights finale, are spot-on. Most important is that this is a very funny show, but the songs are also good enough that I heard people on the way out disappointed that - by definition- they couldn't download the soundtrack afterwards. (Although Phill should have put his hand up with his suggestion that when NASA got to Mars, the Germans had already got there and put their towels down.)

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical by The Showstoppers is booking until the 28th of November at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue.

Running time: 2 hours including interval (so 8pm is a bit of an annoyingly late start time.)

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