This is the third or fourth time I have seen the Showstoppers improvise a musical, and it is as entertaining – and impressive – as ever. The format is still the same, with the supposed call from a producer for a new musical in 70 minutes leading to the call to the audience for help. Cue frantic efforts from all those who had come along hoping to get their ideas accepted.
The Showstopper website still lists all the chosen locations and musical styles, but on this occasion the most popular suggestions were a tweeted one about a minibus teetering on the edge of a cliff, or a shopping channel. The vote was close but the shopping channel just won. Choosing the musical styles is always the moment at which some members of the audience know whether they will pick up on all the references or not, with different audiences going for very different musicals.
This was a mostly young audience and the chosen styles were Legally Blonde, the Greatest Showman, Sondheim’s The Frogs and Shrek. This was not as varied a group as at some other performances I’ve attended, but that is all part of the experience. The onstage director, Sean McCann at this performance, was wise to add a further audience suggestion, Bat Out of Hell, to provide a more upbeat number near the end of the show.
The six performers and three musicians were drawn from the talented group that appear in this show, the Kids’ version and, in many cases, their own solo performances elsewhere. The packed audience of 700 enjoyed every twist of the plot, whether it involved a trip in a helicopter, a disillusioned TV presenter or indeed anything else from the quick minds of this troupe.
Showstopper: The Improvised Musical has been coming to the Fringe for 11 years now and still fills a 700 seat theatre at every performance, and tours around the country; so it is not surprising that the format stays the same even though every performance is, of course, unique. If I enjoyed the Kids’ version even more this year it was probably due to the inventive suggestions from the child audience – and it was also good to see the group working in a smaller venue on that occasion.