Musical review: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

Share this article


IT'S a premise for a show that spells calamity, although the execution of Showstopper! is fortunately just sublime. As soon as the audience are seated, writer and compere Dylan Emery asks them to construct the basis for a musical theatre production through shouted suggestions. This can get good-naturedly rowdy during a late-night edition, and throws up a different show every time. So, for the purposes of this review, we'll be discussing A Time to Dream, a coming-of-age drama set on a goat farm on the outskirts of communist Kiev during the 1960s. It's much funnier than it sounds.

Emery is backed by keyboard player Chris Ash, and the pair form a subtle double act at the side of the stage, Ash remaining mute but getting his point across with the occasional subtly-spun musical improvisation. At one point he works in a little bit of If I Were a Rich Man to complement the action, and Emery counters with a wryly reassuring "it's not plagiarism if you don't get all the notes right".

The ensemble cast of improvisational performers from London group The Sticking Place are all excellent, with the kind of vocal skills that help to convince the crowd that this isn't just a mickey-take. Of course a lot of fun is had with the genre, but this is a show clearly in love with the musical form, and it's a treat that the denouement is affecting as well as silly.

Anyone anticipating pratfalls from the tightrope-walking challenge the cast have set themselves will be disappointed. This bunch are sharp, and some great comedy lines result amid the audience-demanded Gilbert and Sullivan, Gershwin, and 'rural' Rogers and Hammerstein imitations. Emery plays the part of instigator, requesting that the next scene be played in the style of Pinter, or that a peculiar, stumbled-upon idiom ("I was worried of you", and so on) be continued.

This run's previous hits include Red Envy and When Bombay Stars Bleed. Anyone with a love for musicals or comedy should see this show and help create another classic.

• Until 24 August. Today 11pm