Garrick Theatre, London – continues on 5 July, 9 August, 13 September and 11 October 2021
Sitting down to watch Showstopper! The Improvised Musical start their latest West End residency at the Garrick Theatre, I couldn’t help but think back to the days when they used to play the King’s Head Theatre regularly (sadly more than 10 years ago now and most of my visits sadly unrecorded). Their expert comic stylings definitely benefit from the bigger stages available to them now but there was also a greater likelihood that one of your suggestions might actually get used!
For the uninitiated, the show works on the conceit that a brand new musical needs to be written right then and there and the host for the evening, Dylan Emery for this show, collects ideas about musical styles, plot twists and titles from the audience via texts and tweets. The company then improvises an original show from the hodge-podge of suggestions, with Emery intervening at crucial moments to make things as entertainingly difficult as possible.
It is huge amounts of fun, as attested by the number of times I’ve been back to see these guys and this show was no exception. We were privileged to see the world premiere of Dog Gone, a scandalous tale of murder and mint juleps at a dog show with songs taking inspiration from Cabaret, Hamilton and a Lion King-flavoured finale. Best of all though was the Phantom pastiche, gently but decidedly mocking the essential nature of that show to vivid effect.
Out of the rolling ensemble, ths performance featured Adam Meggido, Pippa Evans, Justin Brett and Lucy Trodd, with Chris Ash on keys and Craig Apps on percussion, and there wasn’t a weak link between them. It’s fascinating to see the different ways in which they work, reacting to the multitudinous outrageous twists and turns in a plot that delighted in its ridiculousness, shifting accents and everything. Best of all, it will all be completely different next time you go, as it’s all made up on the spot. And let’s face it, you’ll be going for the next 10 years too.