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David Grewcock

Review: SHOWSTOPPER! at the Apollo Theatre

SHOWSTOPPER! at the Apollo Theatre Arriving for an extended run in London off the back of another hugely successful Edinburgh Festival stint, Showstopper! is a very welcome addition to the more familiar musical offerings on Shaftesbury Avenue.

The premise is delightfully simple: the cast and onstage band create a brand new musical from scratch every night. With suggestions fielded from a very enthusiastic audience, the cast are given a setting, combined with some existing show titles as reference points, and they’re off.

Created by Dylan Emery and Adam Meggido (who both feature in the current run), when it works, it really is brilliantly funny. It's laugh out loud stuff with moments of comedy genius. The quick wit and inventiveness of the cast is like nothing else on show in the West End.

The cast are without exception, remarkable; although surprisingly, Emery and Meggido are both stealthily upstaged by the generous offerings and unending versatility of other cast members, particularly Ruth Bratt and Pippa Evans who are undoubtedly two of theatre’s finest improvisers.

It’s a pity that the awkward setup belies the unexpected nature of the main event but Emery goes on to prove wryly amusing as he provokes the action from the sidelines. His co-creator, Meggido is clearly in his element taking command of the unknown but some moments could’ve been allowed to flourish further if he held back.

However, the ability of the entire cast to pick up the theme and run with it is extraordinary. It makes for a wonderfully mischievous atmosphere that floods the theatre.

It's laugh out loud stuff with moments of comedy genius. The quick wit and inventiveness of the cast is like nothing else on show in the West End.

Whilst there is much joy to be had in the seemingly random musical numbers, the real delights come from those songs which veer oh so close to their originals but magically carve out their own melody. Quite how the band manages to not only keep up with the madcap pastiches but in most cases, lead them, is a wonder to behold – a Fosse fuelled brothel erupted from an opening riff alluding to All That Jazz and a touching Tea Cup ballad (earnestly strummed in the style of Once) convincingly professed that relationships, like the tea inside the cup, need time to brew.

As with any improvised performance, there are lulls - very few to be fair, but the highs more than make up for it. Those who have previous experience of improvisation will perhaps spot a few of the ‘tricks’, especially on a second visit, but don’t let that put you off. More than any other show, this is one where you should just sit back and marvel at it all.

And so marvel I did. Showstopper! catapults the art of improvisation back into the spotlight and makes magic from that moment ‘just before you know what’s about to happen’. And whilst I’m sure it’s terrifying for the cast, it’s nothing short of electric for the audience.

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical