Showstopper! The (Socially Distanced) Improvised Musical at Showstopper Online
It’s been over ten years since Showstopper! The Improvised Musical was first made up on the spot at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2008. Seeing it live is absolutely astonishing – plot, lyrics, songs, and even matching rhymes are made up as it moves along and is performed as though it were a fully rehearsed show.
The 2020 socially distanced revival – performed live and streamed via private link on YouTube – follows the same formula. Audience suggestions for individual songs or plot developments are made via the chat function. Andrew Pugsley acts as the presenter and mediates between the audience and the performers and attempts to give the plot consistency; even online, it’s still an unstoppable concept thanks to its fantastic cast.
But one can’t help but feel that witnessing Showstopper! online in a studio setting just isn’t quite the same as seeing it in a proper theatre. Having the audience contribute via the chat doesn’t create the same vibe as experiencing live reactions with cheers and applause and people humming along to the tunes; it’s essentially just half of the experience, no matter how good the performances are.
Nevertheless, it’s still perfectly enjoyable, even just in the knowledge that everything is improvised. The cast – Ruth Bratt, Justin Brett, Pippa Evans and Adam Meggido – are amazingly adept at coming up with fully-fledged characters within minutes and singing fitting songs with full choruses in a heartbeat, and the accompaniment of Duncan Walsh Atkins at the keyboard and percussionist Alex Atty is flawless.
This is especially astonishing considering that the whole concept revolves around a simple prompt – in this case, “set in a hot air balloon”. Two hours later and we have a ridiculous plot involving time travel, a love story, “accidentally” killing President Trump in the past and a Frenchman being the current president of the USA. It’s silly and hardly groundbreaking, but it’s good for a laugh, and with strong musical improv, one can hardly take issue with that.
Although Showstopper! won’t change the way we think about musicals in general, it is a brilliant concept which is enjoyable to consume and it guarantees a great time. While nothing beats seeing this show live, the socially distanced online version still packs a punch and is definitely worth watching.
Photo: Hugo Glendinning
Showstopper! The (Socially Distanced) Improvised Musical is available to stream from The Showstoppers from 28th August until 30th August 2020. For further information or to book visit the show’s website here.