I’m going to begin by admitting that Showstopper! is the most hilarious musical I’ve seen since Book of Mormon. It made me laugh so much I wished I’d brought an inhaler…
Showstopper! is a very unusual musical (or should I say musicals?), because every night, the incredibly talented cast perform a completely new show. On the spot. ‘Impossible’, you might say. Well, it’s no easy task. The cast have trained for at least seven years in improvisation, archiving an impressive knowledge of musical scores in the process. And it’s this knowledge, combined with their incredible creative talent, which makes the process of creating a new musical every night possible.
And that’s all it is – a process. Hilarious conspiracy theories have been banded about on how they can pull off this feat on a daily basis. From ‘a team of writers backstage’ to plants in the audience’, many people refuse to believe what they do is real. But as someone understands creative process, this one is genius. The team have managed to crack a structure, which cleverly harnesses the wisdom of the audience and acts as a conduit of creativity.
It works by the ‘writer’ (Dylan Emery) sitting at the side of the stage throughout the performance. Throughout the musical, he has the power to stop the performance and ask the audience to come up with and vote for their favourite ideas. From the setting, title, and musicals on which to base the songs on, the entire show depends on the input of the audience. Along the way we’re also asked to chip in random ideas like phrases, and during the interval you can tweet plot lines at the cast.
The set is spartan. Designed by Simon Scullion, a range of boxes and frames sit in the centre of the stage, sometimes acting as a door, a window frame, or whatever we imagine it to be. The costumes and props, by Gabriella Slade, are in a similar vein. An array of red and black scarves and simple clothing helps the Showstoppers! decide what they should be. A couple of furry snoods can become hipster beards. Russian hats transform them into corgis.
The other magic ingredient is the teamwork between the cast. You can see how they work in harmony together, taking cues when it’s their turn to sing. And even when mistakes are made – such as when Ruth Bratt and Adam Meggido began to duet and had to refrain from laughing, it just added to the charm of the production, and made you feel part of something wonderful.
I had the privilege of seeing ‘The Lyin’ King’, a two hour comedic drama starring the employees of The Daily Mail offices. We saw Pippa Evans take the lead as an intern rising to fame, having an affair, and taking reign as Editor, all through the power of lies, and an exclusive story into the birth of a new royal corgi. Not forgetting the incredible number ‘Up your bananas, Daddy’, a song inspired by Book of Mormon’s ‘Hasa diga eebowai’, brilliantly supported by the extensive musical knowledge of the on-stage musicians.
The cast have performed hundreds of musicals. Previous titles include ‘Driller’ A dentist-themed musical inspired by Michael Jackson, ‘Poke me’, a musical about speed dating, and ‘Aargh 2 D 2’, set on board a robot pirate ship. It’s funny, it’s current, it’s social, it’s amazingly polished. And how often is it that you can visit the west end to watch a musical, which you helped to create? Genius.
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical at the Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1D 7ES, until Sunday 29th November 2015. Running time approximately 90 minutes with a 20 minute interval. For more information and tickets visit the website.