Saturday, 12 January 2019
REVIEW: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical - Nuffield Theatres, Southampton.
Every night is different, every night is a sensation. This musical really is a Showstopper! Dylan Emery and Sean McCann’s concoction of comedy and musical theatre reached the Nuffield Southampton Theatres, succeeding its time on the west end stage, and prior to that the Edinburgh Fringe, with more energy than ever before and has truly hit the south with a bang.
The concept of the show? ‘Showstopper!’ is simply written, or rather performed, from audience suggestions; deciding the setting, title and a handful of musicals or musical composers whose styles are then pastiched, creating a whole new musical. This means the show heavily relies on audience participation, as well as divergent thinking. I’m inclined to say our audience had both of those things, setting our 18-30s holiday at Millbrook roundabout in homage to Legally Blonde and Les Miserables! The cast of only 6 thrived off the audience, turning our ideas into an hilariously innovative improvised show.
The musical commenced with the ‘director’, played by accomplished comedian and actor, Justin Brett. He immediately broke the fourth wall, lightening the mood, and had the audience in stitches within the first few minutes. This was largely due to the precise detail of his jokes, which were current and specific to the area of Southampton. The remaining 5 members of the cast then improvised using the suggestions to create a stylized performance, with exceptional use or mime and exaggerated vocal work. Their characters developed throughout the performance allowing the humour to build as each actor bounced off the other. The cast were all impressively quick thinking and the references were genius, often with particular acknowledgement to audience reactions and comments. The repetition of the so-called ‘incidental pleasures’ was a particular triumph, creating exclusive or ‘inside jokes’ bridging a connection between the cast and the audience.
Prior to watching ‘The Showstoppers.’ I deliberated on design elements that fitted ‘any’ show. The design elements, although less obvious, were just as impressive as the work of the performers. Musical Director Duncan Walsh Atkins and the live band, consisting of a single keyboard (Chris Ash) and drum kit, was positioned downstage left, reacting and responding with flare, leading the actors on stage and creating harmonious musical elements. Further, the use of a basic set in a box theatre encouraged flexibility, specifically allowing a bedroom to become a plane in a matter of seconds. The cast were dressed in nonspecific black, white and red suits. This was funny in itself, but also aided multi rolling as they were interchangeable. The basic suit was often accompanied by a different hat, depending on the scene. The costumes could be easily adapted; this was exhibited by Michelle [Pippa Evans] in a self fashioned ‘milk bottle top bikini’. Utterly absurd! Props were minimalistic. Of course this seemed necessary to achieve an ‘improvised’ show but, I would also argue it actually enhanced the already facetious performance. Using a baseball bat as a candle and then a snorkel, in the same scene, proved notably amusing.
Last night’s performance definitely confirmed that this show really is ‘one of a kind’. So, although the plot is not yet decided, the music is yet to be written, the comedy genius is already guaranteed. This cast are second to none. And unquestionably, there is nothing like them. Staggeringly good. A must-see!
Reviewer - Grace McNicholas
on - 11/1/19