Tuesday, January 25

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical – Lyric Theatre

To say that I went into Showstopper! not knowing what to expect is an understatement. I’m sure most people have gone to the theatre with minimal detail on what they’re about to see, but in the case of Showstopper! even the cast has no idea how the performance is going to unfold.

This is because the entire production is completely improvised; from the musical numbers to the storyline and script, the cast and musicians are completely winging it, taking some direction from the audience. Audience participation is fast paced, led last night by Sean McCann who opens by taking suggestions for the location, inspiration and title of the show from the audience, which we voted on in the time-honoured tradition of applause and foot stamping. Establishing that “Ice-Olated” was to be set in a remote northern pub where pundits were snowed in with a tribute band and would lift stylistically from classics including Gypsy and Miss Saigon, McCann steps back and the first musical number begins.

With no preparation, no script, no written music and no idea what anyone else may or may not be about to do, we were treated to a brand-new musical that was slick, funny and moving, with catchy songs that are still playing in my head today. As someone who has taken a turn on the stage in the past, I know first-hand that even the most well-rehearsed shows can sometimes go awry, so to watch a group of actors and musicians riffing off each other and producing genuinely superb content in real time was a truly spectacular experience. The chemistry and synchronicity between the cast and the band was just incredible, the score was varied and flawless and the improvisation so witty it felt scripted. There were call backs and sub-plots that twisted and flowed beautifully, and I honestly felt so invested in the characters that were being developed on the spot that I even shed a tear or two.

Describing the production as organised chaos would be doing it a disservice, because for the majority of the time you could easily forget that it’s all being improvised. The second act opens with an audience vote on whether we wanted to see a ‘Walking in the Air’ inspired dream sequence or an Oasis homage to explain one character’s descent into alcoholism. Quite the distinction in genres! We voted for the Oasis option and received a rendition of a song inspired by Cigarettes and Alcohol that could have been weeks in development. The challenges of improvisation are navigated skilfully and hilariously; I particularly enjoyed watching the cast try to find a legitimate word that rhymes with ‘deepest’ (‘steepest’ is acceptable, ‘sleepest’ not so much…) and my face honestly hurt from grinning by the end of the evening.

Whether you’re a musical buff, a fan of improv or just fancy a fun night at the theatre, Showstopper! is an absolute joy of a production. The levels of talent on stage are simply outstanding and I’d have absolutely no hesitation in recommending it to anyone – because although you don’t know what to expect, I can confidently guarantee you’ll have a fantastic evening. https://showstopperthemusical.com/

Reviewer: Zoё Meeres

Reviewed: 6th December 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★