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Showstopper! The Improvised Musical at The Other Palace

Showstopper! The Imrprovised Musical at The Other Palace. Photo credit - Alex Harvey-Brown
Showstopper! The Imrprovised Musical at The Other Palace. Photo credit – Alex Harvey-Brown

An improv production that has been doing the rounds since 2008, Showstopper! The Improvised Musical retains a vitality and freshness about it. The first time I saw the show was in November 2010 at the King’s Head Theatre. That evening, ‘Show 220’ according to the Showstopper archives, was a murder mystery called ‘Who Won It?’ The winner of the best actress award has been murdered shortly before a major London awards ceremony, and various motives are asserted for various interested parties. I mention that as the programme mentions a reviewer (not by name) who had reason to believe that more or less the same story unfolds on stage every night with only minor modifications put in.

I don’t recall exactly how many times I’ve seen the production, but we are talking double figures across various London venues over the years. I confirm: no two shows are the same. Having had several runs in West End theatres, this eight-week residency at The Other Palace in itself demonstrates how the production continues, with justification, to delight audiences. Some in the audience, like me, knew roughly what to expect (that is, the unexpected), whilst others, first-time patrons to Showstopper!, were (as far as I could tell) impressed with what they saw.

The performance I attended this time around was ‘Show 1001’, and sure enough, the content of ‘A Lotta Dancin’’, set in and around an allotment in St Ives, Cornwall, was far from the glitz and glamour of Show 220’s Theatreland setting. One or two things don’t change, though. The big red rotary telephone that calls to mind the Direct Line insurance company hasn’t yet been replaced with an iPhone, and the producer at the other end of the phone to the show’s host Dylan Emery is, always and forever, ‘Cameron’.

As ever, suggestions are taken from the audience as to the setting of the show, then what musicals a song in the show should be based on, then what the show should be called. But the audience participation (for that is what it is) doesn’t end there – at the interval, tweets are encouraged for further ideas to take the narrative forward in the second half. A good number are read out, and as could be reasonably expected, some suggestions are more feasible than others. But the cast are able to turn the zaniest of proposals and somehow make them work. Here, for instance, musical suggestions that made it to the large display board on stage were Rent, 42nd Street, Wicked and Little Women, with Sweeney Todd and Once added to the mix in the second half. Indeed, with the heartbreak of a relationship having ended and the ecstasy of others beginning, there are nods to virtually any musical about people falling in love you may choose to think of.

There seemed to be fewer interventions from Emery than I have witnessed on previous visits. Perhaps this is a case of ‘luck of the draw’, perhaps it is that the cast have gained so much experience of improvised musicals between them that fewer interventions are required, perhaps it is both. But opportunities for yet more audience recommendations continue kept coming, and all the while, a small band led by Duncan Walsh Atkins are furnishing the performance with split-second reactions and melodies.

With an unpredictable storyline, partly thanks to some interesting plot twists, the show was a joy to watch. There are no weak links to report, though the stand-out performances on this occasion came from Ruth Bratt, whose character’s commitment to growing flowers in an allotment set up for vegetable planting resulted in mixed responses, and Pippa Evans, whose New Zealander-accented physical education teacher character set the plotline on a completely different direction to where it was originally headed. A production well worth seeing – here’s to the next thousand performances and then some.

5 Star Rating

Review by Chris Omaweng

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical at The Other Palace from Tuesday 22 January, delivering 8 brand new completely spontaneous musicals every week, alongside their regular monthly performances in the West End’s Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue. During the run the company will celebrate their 1000th unique, one-of-a-kind performance.

With eleven years as an Edinburgh Festival must-see phenomenon, a critically acclaimed West End run and the Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Family Show to their name, The Showstoppers have blazed a trail in world-class improvised comedy and delighted audiences across the globe.

Transforming audience suggestions – for setting, musical styles, show title and more – into all-singing, all-dancing productions with hilarious results, The Showstoppers guarantee audiences an entirely different show every single night as each performance is a brand-new musical West End hit waiting to happen.

The Other Palace
12 Palace Street

The Other Palace
Booking to Sat 16th March 2019

Lyric Theatre
Booking to Monday 23rd September 2019



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