I’ve seen Showstopper The improvised Musical in a theatre a couple of times and always thoroughly enjoyed it. So, I was intrigued to see what they would do in Showstopper (The Socially Distanced) Improvised Musical – an on-line version of the show and I wasn’t disappointed.
Firstly, I was delighted to see that they weren’t using Zoom which in my experience can be a bit hit and miss but YouTube which turned out to be the perfect platform. A behind-the-scenes video during the interval showed all the hard work that went into putting on the show where the performers along with two musicians were all in the same room at the same time. The four main members of the cast were socially distanced and behind large, Perspex screens and the two musicians, Musical Director Duncan Walsh Atkins on keyboards and Alex Atty on percussion wore masks. There were also a number of remote-controlled cameras and the whole production was very professional – you could see that a lot of time and effort had been put into the presentation which was superb.
The live Showstoppers The Improvised Musical does exactly what it says on the tin. The performers come along with a completely clean slate and ask for suggestions from the audience about a place, a time and the style of songs. The on-line version did the same although the suggestions weren’t shouted out but sent via the chatbox on the YouTube page. Then the host, Andrew Pugsley along with the cast, Pippa Evans, Ruth Bratt, Adam Megiddo and Justin Brett chose the place, in this case in a hot air balloon in New York City and the show got started. Along the way, we got eleven superb songs amongst which, suggested by the audience, were songs in the style of “The Boyfriend”, “Jesus Christ Superstar”, “Hamilton” and “The Muppets”. All the songs were superb, both music and lyrics and there was hardly a misstep throughout the ninety or so minutes (including an interval). All four performers were in synch with each other which isn’t really a surprise as they’re all veterans of the genre. Obviously having worked closely together before improvising songs, there are building blocks that they use to write the songs on the hoof but if you didn’t know the premise of the show, you would think that the songs were already written and they were just performing them – it’s an extraordinary and highly entertaining skill.
“The Balloon Where It Happened” (a title suggested by the audience) had over four hundred live “views”, which meant that at least double that number of people were looking in and as I write this it’s had over eleven hundred “views”, so at least two thousand people have seen it so far and it’s still on for another day. So, it looks as if over three thousand people or so would have seen the show before it stops being available. As one of the places I’ve seen it is at the King’s Head in Islington which has a capacity of one hundred and forty people, the company would have had to perform the show twenty-two times to match the number who have seen it this one-off performance on-line. There are not a lot of good things that have come out of the current pandemic but when it’s all over, it could be a mixture of live and on-line productions is the future of theatre. Not everyone can get to the theatre because of where they live or through illness or disability so if more shows are shown on-line, the audience for them would be a lot bigger and that can only be a good thing.
It’s fantastic value at just over £10 per household and you don’t have to get on a crowded tube to go see it. Whilst we’re starved of live theatre, what can be better than that?
Review by Alan Fitter
With over 600 tickets sold, 1,911 suggestions for musical theatre styles, songs and settings, and a total of 1,184 views for their first-ever socially distanced livestream, Olivier Award winners and Fringe favourites The Showstoppers are back with another socially distanced and completely improvised smash hit musical.
Using state-of-the-art technology and rigorous social distancing, the company will take live suggestions from the audience watching at home to create a full-length brand new musical, while socially distanced from each other behind a clear screen.
So whether you fancy ‘Hamilton’ on Hampstead Heath or some Sondheim set in a castle, you say it and – as always – The Showstoppers will make it happen!