Review by: Sophie Thomas
Getting on stage and performing a brand new show for the first time is a daunting task for any actor. Now, add into the mix that you won’t know what you will do on stage until the curtain rises and that’s exactly what the Showstoppers have managed to achieve 1,000 times.
Creating a new, full-length musical every night, the Showstoppers are an improvised musical theatre troupe that perform a full length improvised musical, based entirely on audience suggestions.
With an Olivier Award to their name, as well as numerous sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Festival, the company has grown massively since their early days at the Hen and Chickens Theatre in Islington in 2008. Celebrating their thousandth show on 23rd January 2019, the Showstoppers have earned their place as one of the leading improvised theatre troupes. With 1,000 unique productions under their belt, the Showstoppers 8-week engagement at The Other Palace acts as a testament to the lovable nature of the company, drawing audiences back in for more improvised theatre.
Over two acts, Dylan Emery leads as a director of sorts, seemingly calling Cameron Mackintosh to tell him all about the next big theatrical hit. When Emery calls upon the audience to decide what they want to see, the floor is open for suggestion.
Anything is on the table, but first things first, we need a setting. Emery drives the audience to embellish their suggestions until he is satisfied, which somewhat removes the illusion that “any” setting can be given and is slightly orchestrated by what the cast members may prefer.
Having dipped my toe into performing improvised musicals myself, smaller details such as cast members interjecting each other mid-sentence may be more apparent to me than to someone who has never seen a piece of improvised theatre before. Saying this, it’s clear that the Showstoppers are able to tackle any situation that’s thrown their way, with a particular highlight of mine being the Cabaret inspired number about a big house led by Pippa Evans.
The musical accompaniments led by MD Duncan Walsh Atkins really shine. Seamlessly tying the action on stage to what the audience wanted, the musicians were able to bring the show to a blazing finish, making sure that this production stands out from other improvised shows, rivalling West End productions that have played for years.
But, while the public love when things come together before their very eyes, it’s when the cast members make the occasional slip up that the audience begins to fall into the palm of the show’s hand. There are moments when the cast drop out of a character to laugh at the absurdity of what’s going on, or when attempts to execute improvised choreography may leave one cast member flailing around for a few seconds. However, it’s these small moments of imperfection that gleam, often getting the loudest laughs.
The Showstoppers have managed to find their niche in a crowded theatrical market. Now having played 1,000 performances, the Showstoppers can congratulate themselves on this theatrical feat and look forward to unfolding more unscripted nonsense on stage.
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical is at The Other Palace until 16th March.
Now On Stage 2019