Showstopper The Improvised Musical

Life literally abounds in comedy if you just look around you.

-Mel Brooks

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Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

In 2019, before the world became grim with Covid, we visited the Lichfield Garrick Theatre to watch Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.  We were treated to two hours of an improvised musical called ‘Correct Change Please’ aka ‘M6 Toll The Musical.’

It was possibly the funniest thing Team Hedgehog had ever seen!  Roll on to present day 2023 and the world is even grimmer, so imagine our glee at realising that ‘The Showstoppers’ were back in Lichfield – cue happy faces !

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About Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

For the uninitiated, Showstopper! is comedy troupe of Musical Theatre performers.  The idea is that they perform a new one-off musical each time they do the show, so no matter how many times you see them, you never see the same show twice.

There are seventeen showstopper performers that make up the national cast and each local performance is run by a selection of just six of the players and two musicians (who by the way are excellent).  The cast often play multiple characters throughout the show, and rely on just some simple colour coded props to support their story.

The premise of the show begins with a musical writer on a deadline.  He receives a phone call from a producer who needs a new musical to be created asap.  The writer needs the audience’s help, so he asks for suggestions for a setting, musical theatre styles, and of course a show title, then off they go!  The Showstopper! crew – including live musicians, come up with a brand-new musical in front of the audience’s very eyes, they do not even stop to take a breath and have a think about what they will do, they just go straight in, and the results are hilarious!

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Our Experience - Showstopper! - Brickin’ It!!!!!

The red phone on the desk rang, our writer (Sean McCann) rushed on stage and answered the call…

‘’An emergency you say, a new musical is needed, yes, we have a fantastic writer’s room, I’ll get back to you’’.

and with that we were off.  Our writer asked the audience for suggestions on where the new musical could be set.  Our amazing audience gave suggestions such as Alpha Centauri, The Burton Breweries and Legoland.  – Legoland was the unanimous choice.

The phone rang again, and our writer relayed the setting, next up was the musical styles, the Writer  making a note of four popular suggestions on a small blackboard: Groundhog Day, Annie, Blues Brothers and Come From Away.  It was then time to pick the title for the new show, and to a roar of laughter, ‘Brickin’ It!!!!!‘ was chosen.

Immediately the cast sprang into action, and we were introduced to a group who were on a stag do at Legoland!  Not long after the start the cast broke into song ‘It’s the Married Life For Me’ in the style of Annie (Hard Knock Life).

You can’t fail to be amazed at just how good this group of performers are at improvision, with Jonathan Ainscough taking on the lead as the groom, instinctively creating the lyrics for the song ‘Build It Up’ on the fly, with Ruth Bratt picking up on subtle ques and seemingly mind reading Ainscough’s thoughts.  The rest of the cast (Philip Pellew, Andrew Pugsley, Lucy Trodd)  joined in this bombastic number as we learned more about each character and their role in the ‘stag’.

Throughout the show, this cast of performers and musicians, sang, and danced their way through the story with the writer pausing the on-stage antics at various points; to either suggest a musical style from the list, gain some audience participation – such as what was on the table?  (Audience answer-  a doll made from hair –the weird lot!)  and pose questions such as why is Charles dressed as a crab?

The cast took these interruptions in their stride and as the improvisation got more ludicrous, they just went with it.  Creating songs about a log flume photo incident, a love triangle, and explaining exactly what Brian did in the pool with several dolphins and a dog!

During the interval the writer asked the audience to tweet suggestions on how the second half should start and when the show resumed, he read some of them out and the cast took some of the suggestions to form the second half of the show.  I was particularly proud that my Hamilton suggestion, whilst not read out, turned into a 10 min Hamilton style song kicking off Act 2.

The skill with this group is that they constantly lead the audience into thinking one thing and then with misdirection they take us down a different, often hilarious, route.  Even though they have performed over 800 times and counting, they all still look like they are having so much fun.  Any random actions that they make, such as randomly acting like a crab, or accidently mentioning Crème Brulee (the poshest dessert you could ever have!) are embraced and woven into the fabric of the show.  As the show goes on, they build in call backs to these actions and  with the crazy audience suggestions all adding to the fun it becomes anarchy on the stage.

They also know when one of the cast is struggling to think of something to say and either give them time to think of a suitable response, or take over the song or monologue, occasionally one of the cast in the background will just decide to come forward and do something random for the laughs.  One highlight was a ‘weird child’ directing aircraft at Legoland in the background, whilst a deep and meaningful heart to heart is going on.  If that sounds bonkers, it is, and all for the right reasons.  The Showstoppers never let the story get too serious.

We have had the privilege to watch showstoppers a few times now, and each time we leave the show entertained and bamboozled.  We can never work out just how they manage to make it work.  One thing is for certain, a great night was had by everybody.  We introduced some friends to the show as well and they really enjoyed themselves.  Make sure you check out The Showstoppers! if they are in a town near you anytime soon.  We certainly will be return patrons, and cannot wait to see what they come up with next!

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