Showstopper! The Improvised Musical***** (Apollo Theatre)

Posted: October 1, 2015 in Theatre

showstopperThis review was originally written for The Reviews Hub:

“So good you need to see it twice” reviewers were told by the producers before attending this “make your own” musical. Twice to appreciate the versatility of the performers, twice to believe that every show really is different. More than seven years after Adam Meggido and Dylan Emery created it in a small Islington pub theatre, Showstopper!… has grown to become a big hit at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival and now it has landed where the shows that it is mimicking regard as their home – slap bang in the middle of Shaftesbury Avenue, between Thriller and Les Misérables. The simple format requires audience members to suggest themes, titles and styles for a new musical being commissioned by Sir Cameron Mackintosh, the options then being put to a crude audience vote. The audience can make further suggestions by tweeting in the interval, but the rest is down to the seven performers, including Meggido and Emery who acts as MC, and three musicians under the direction of Duncan Walsh Atkins. Audience prompting could perhaps lead us to a show set in a fairy grotto in Northern Ireland and a plot about fairies earning their wings and furthering the peace process in their Province. “Don’t live a little live a lot-to, come and join us in our grotto” chants the chorus. As for the title, it’s “Puck Off” beating “Fairy Liquid” by a short head. Style? Well think along the lines of a miserable stomp along the wicked Avenue Q in Jersey before being hit with a rock (of ages) by An American idiot. Oh and there is room for a little Gilbert and Sullivan in the mix too. If one audience is in the mood for silliness, the next may opt for biting topical satire, and thus the offices of the Daily Mail narrowly beats the Cereal Killer Cafe to be the musical’s location. However, the latter makes a comeback in an “East End Story” finger-snapping rumble scene to the strains of “Snap, Crackle and Pop”. By the way, the best rhyme for “cereal” is “ethereal”. On this occasion, “The Lying King” is chosen as the title, just beating “Jeremy Corbyn: The Musical” and inspired takes on Dream Girls and Book of Mormon raise the roof (something the company needs to be careful with at this particular theatre). If parts of this second show flirt with being slanderous, there is no script and no repeat performance, so who is going to care? All the performers demonstrate amazing skills and an incredibly wide knowledge of musicals in making up tunes, lyrics and plot lines as they go along and also in reacting instantly to whatever others come up with. It all runs so seamlessly that it is difficult to believe that there is not someone or something behind the scenes pulling the strings, but, if so, the strings are invisible and, as when watching a top magician, the show is best enjoyed by not pondering for too long on how it is all done. On this evidence, Showstopper!… is (and seems likely to be at every performance) a joyful celebration of both the glories and and the glorious absurdities of musical theatre. So good you need to see it (at least) twice.

Performance date: 30 September 2015


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