Wednesday, 9 December 2020

REVIEW: Showstopper! An Improvised Musical at the Garrick Theatre

‘I’m the safety inspector at a nuclear power plant in the former Soviet Union’ wasn’t the punchline I was expecting when I walked into the Garrick on Monday evening but I laughed none the less when I got it. 

It might be my worst nightmare to go on stage in front of about 350 people without a single idea of what to say, but The Showstoppers didn’t miss a beat. The ‘improvised musical’ really does what it says on the tin. The audience sends in suggestions for story, character, place and style and then get given what they ask for. In my case, that was a musical about out of work actors who can’t help but make their new jobs a show. Ouch. Despite it hitting a tad close to home, myself, the 6 person cast, 2 piece band and 349 other out of work theatre people laughed at our own misfortune for 75 minutes straight. 

The cast was led confidently by chairman Dylan Emery and, with fabulous versatility, sang their way through the stylings of The Rocky Horror Show, Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King. In isolation, each and every cast member boasted hugely impressive voices, and in pairing this with their impeccable comic timing, they couldn’t really go wrong. It would be remiss of me not to applaud the funny bone of my fellow audience members as well, who were not short of inspiration for the show, somehow making Chernobyl a call back for the characters, which came out of nowhere but somehow worked… (you had to be there). I guess that’s what’s great about improv shows though. They’re totally unique and that makes the night special.

Although I’m no comedy connoisseur, the one thing I would say about this show is that I felt the audience relinquished some control of the story as the musical went on. The character and story creation was incredibly funny as the show opened, and even the cast tripping over plot holes were played with all the nudge, nudge, wink winks you’d want from this self-aware style, however, it took on a life of its own as the narrative was established. That isn’t to say it wasn’t funny, but it wasn’t quite as funny as the bizarre worlds being created at the shows opening. This may be more of an indictment of long form improv than of the casts own stamina, but I’d be interested to see how other versions of the musical play out with a totally new cast of characters. 

That is probably the best testament I can give to The Showstoppers though. Despite my apparent cynicism towards improvisation, I would happily go back and see them do it all again. The suggestions that were given before the show even started were filled with potential, and although they are now lost to Monday the 7th of December, I can only imagine the bizarre worlds created at the Garrick on upcoming select Mondays will be equally as rib-tickling. 

Review by Anna Smith 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: Stalls, L15 | Price of Ticket: £35

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