Home » London Theatre Reviews » Showstopper! The Improvised Musical at the Garrick Theatre | Review

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical at the Garrick Theatre | Review

The number of shows of Showstopper! The Improvised Musical that I’ve seen over the years is now well into double figures, and I can verify that I’ve never seen the same show twice. Its basic structure remains unchanged: suggestions for themes, settings, musicals and musical composers are invited, but rather than have them shouted from the stalls and gallery before the show proper gets underway, as they usually would (public health restrictions, y’see), the audience is instead invited to text or tweet suggestions, and a selection of these are arbitrarily shortlisted and presented to the audience, who are invited to applaud and stamp their feet in order to ‘vote’ for their preferred choice. Texts and tweets are also encouraged as the show progresses – if people having their phones out during a show grinds your gears, perhaps this isn’t the show for you, to put it politely.

The Showstoppers - Photo by Hugo Glendinning.
The Showstoppers – Photo by Hugo Glendinning.

Suggestions for settings this time around included the Deep South, from which the show’s characters collude to escape for whatever reason, a school reunion, and the people’s choice, a murder at a dog show. As it transpires, the victim of crime was a dog at a dog show – the possibilities are wide: was it done, for instance, in self-defence? Was it a dog that killed another dog? Well, I’m hardly going to spill the beans here, except to say the (reduced and appropriately socially distanced) cast did well to incorporate plot twists and surprises, some of which, particularly towards the end, drew audible gasps, albeit from an unassuming audience.

Dylan Emery chaired proceedings, as he so often does, guiding the show through various avenues and musical styles, which this time around incorporated, amongst other shows, The Lion King, Cabaret, Hamilton and The Phantom of the Opera. Cynthia (Pippa Evans) is distraught at the loss of her dog, Pegasus (they had fun with names and descriptions), comforted by Horace (Adam Meggido). Horace’s butler, Horatio (Justin Brett), was one of those loyal servants who probably should have been pensioned off some time ago but is still kept on despite his advancing years and decreased mobility, such is his discretion and dependability. Brett doubled up as Duncan Gordonstone, a dog owner with a love interest, Ophelia (Lucy Trodd), so named on the back of a request to perform a scene in the style of a Shakespeare play.

The character development was such that nobody ended up being quite who they initially said they were. Some moments of utter chaos ensued, par for the course with improvised shows: even I couldn’t help chortling away at the sight of all four characters apparently driving the same car. The comedy element was larger and stronger than the dramatic one, though it is possible to tease out an image of everyone in the driving seat being indicative of a team effort. Also on stage, Chris Ash was on keys and Craig Apps on percussion, seemingly effortlessly gliding their way through different styles and tempos. A murder mystery with more than a few twists, this was, as ever, a splendid and entertaining experience.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

There’s no stopping The Showstoppers!
With twelve years as an Edinburgh Festival must-see phenomenon, a critically acclaimed West End run and an Olivier Award to their name, The Showstoppers have blazed a trail in world-class improvised comedy and delighted audiences across the globe. Now, with well over 1000 performances under their belts, they’re back in a new home at the Garrick Theatre for a limited run of singular, one-night-only musical extravaganzas.

Running Time: 1hour 15mins no interval
Garrick Theatre
Age Recommendation 12+


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