Showstopper! The Improvised Musical: Theatre Review (York Fringe 2017)

Photo Credits: Geraint Lewis

Expectations: 4.5/5
Reality: 5/5
Chronic Illness Friendly: 4.5/5 – This is a good one for chronic illness sufferers. No strobe lighting or special effects, and a really nice concise run time of 70 minutes! A tad loud and shouty at times, but aside from that it’s a nice, safe choice for those with health concerns.

I said on my social media that I wasn’t going to review the York Fringe shows I saw, and I lied; after experiencing Showstopper’s performance yesterday, I just knew that I had to do at least a quick review of it.

Put simply, the Showstopper team rock up to a venue, have a chat with the audience and improvise a 70 minute musical on the spot, based on the audience’s suggestions. People are invited to suggest random locations and titles, and vote for their favourites, and then choose five existing musicals for the performance be inspired by. For their early York Fringe show which I attended, this essentially led to a musical based on the Galapagos Islands, following the early work of Charles Darwin, inspired by the songs of Kinky Boots. And they even got a Love Island reference in. Believe me, it was a classic.

And here’s the thing: the consequent musical, improvised on the spot by six cast members with minimal costuming, props, set and lighting, created a performance better than some of the scripted and choreographed shows I’ve seen in my time. It ran coherently as a story, engaged the audience, made reference to current affairs and even had consistent literary themes running through it. I’m not joking, the cast and crew involved are so talented that it’s actually slightly depressing. For the cast to so easily keep track of the story, bounce off of each other’s performances and improvise entire lyrics of songs at the drop of a hat, time and time again, it’s almost incomprehensible to me. And the fact that they were so clearly enjoying themselves and at times holding back the laughter, made it that much more joyful to watch. I’m convinced that they must have the best job in theatre; if I could sing, act, improvise or indeed, stand up for more than a few minutes without passing out, I would be begging them to let me be a part of their group. The musicians and tech team so seamlessly play off of what’s happening on stage that you almost forget that they too have no idea what’s coming next: basically, the entire performance could pass as a finished show in its own right.

I think you have to see Showstopper for yourself to really get how impressive the whole spectacle is, and that’s why I wholeheartedly recommend that you arrange to see one of their shows: you just never know what you’re going to get, and that’s the beauty of this concept. Go and take a look at their schedule here. Go on, do it now. I’ll probably see you there.


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