Saturday, 9 February 2019

REVIEW: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical - The Theatre Royal, Wakefield.


Since all the shows are improvised around audience suggestion every show is different. Tonight’s show we were enthralled by the drama occurring on the farm house in the middle of the M62, hilariously titled by the audience ‘Stuck In The Middle With Ewe’. And yes, it was another Showstopper!

The same structure and aesthetics as other shows, Showstoppers is a brand that audiences can trust to provide a night of fun musical entertainment. I would say also improvisation skills, but many of the audience exclaimed out loud during the interval that they cannot believe its made up on the spot, that a cast can come up with such wit and perform so well un-rehearsed. High praise that they make impro look so effortless.

‘Stuck In The Middle With Ewe’ had audiences laughing and gasping, the cast of actors were talented performers. The first act had the set up of the characters, the family living on the farm and we discovered our protagonist was the son and he had by the end of the first act big life choices to make. At precise moments up popped the producer character who aided the actors and the story, by taking more audience suggestions as to what should happen next and also ‘pimping’ the actors on stage (an improvistion term meaning putting another actor in a precarious situation for comedic effect), when done as here, in good nature it has the audience laughing. There was not a dull moment and the audience were delighted to be completely involved.

I have to say that I am not a fan of the mesh screens at the back of the stage, I assume to let the actors see the action unfurling on stage whilst they are off, but during the first act the lights were quite bright behind the screens, meaning the actors were illuminated. With each actor stood at one of the several screens passively looking out to the actors performing it appeared there were floating heads in screens behind the action and I was distracted. During the second half this illumination seemed to dim and the floating heads were less distracting, perhaps this was just a technical fault and not a regular occurrence?

Overall the technical ability of the supporting artistes such as the musicians and lighting crew is so impressively seamless it could go unnoticed. The musicians ability to create homages to well known musical numbers and keep up with the actors' improvised lyrics is astonishing. The lighting traveling with the action around stage and changing moods with colour to the different themed musical numbers was also brilliant. Both lighting and musicians were playful and they added comical moments to the production, adding certain sound effects or creating visual gags unbeknownst to actors.

Massive congratulations to all involved; Showstopper is a masterclass in playfulness and spontaneity.

Reviewer - Kerry Ely
on - 8/2/19

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