Award-winning improv group The Showstoppers have certainly been keeping busy in lockdown. In addition to accepting musical challenges from the likes of Elaine Paige and Jenna Russell, earlier this year the group held a hilarious Alternative Eurovision Song Contest which went down a storm. And with no set opening date for many theatres around the country The Showstoppers have taken matters into their own hands and found a clever way to entertain people in their homes with a live streamed musical: Showstopper! The (Socially Distanced) Improvised Musical.
The show featured Ruth Bratt, Justin Brett, Pippa Evans and Adam Meggido, who all abided by social distancing rules throughout. Each performer was sat in their own perspex ‘Showstopper pod’, although thanks to clever editing it was easy to forget they weren’t physically next to one another. As with all improv shows the audience members were key, and for this show host Andrew Pugsley (who also directed with Dylan Emery) was on hand to take suggestions from viewers on everything from the style of songs to perform, the name of the musical and where it was set. The beauty of improvisation is that each show is completely different, and Showstopper! The (Socially Distanced) Improvised Musical was certainly that. Thanks to a great set of suggestions the show told the story of two couples who have been friends since high school, Lilith and Maurie, and Suzanne and er… Maurice. The quartet take a hot air balloon ride over New York City in a thunderstorm, as you do, to celebrate Lilith and Maurie’s 30th anniversary. But after they travel back in time to when they were younger, something dramatic happens which changes the course of history as they know it.
Accompanied by Duncan Walsh on keys and Alex Atty on percussion, the quartet were given the task of performing songs in a variety of musical styles including Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Mis and Hamilton, the latter of which inspired the musical’s brilliant name, The Balloon Where It Happened. The four performers stepped up to the challenge and as a result the audience were treated to some impressive showtunes, including ‘Up, Up and Away (Hooray!)’, ‘The Good Old Days’ and the genius ‘What’s That Light, Now What’s Happening’ in the style of Jesus Christ Superstar. But of course, this was no ordinary musical, and there were some more surreal moments, including a song in the style of the Muppets.
It’s clear that all four performers love their job, and their enthusiasm was infectious throughout. They were all incredibly quick-witted and talented, and had the vocals to match. Justin Brett was particularly hilarious as the French department store assistant Pierre, while Ruth Bratt had a bit too much fun imitating the Muppets. What’s so impressive about The Showstoppers is that all of the performers are incredibly in tune with one another, which always results in slick, faultless shows, and this socially distanced musical was certainly no different. It’s hard to believe it was all made up on the spot given how polished the musical was, and it was hilarious to watch the performers quickly react to all of the suggestions, and even the odd unexpected event – a cough out of the blue, which then became an integral part of the plot. Andrew Pugsley ensured that the four were kept on their toes, interrupting at times to change the direction of the story, and even putting them on the spot in trying to determine what year Macy’s first opened, which just added to the comedy.
With energetic performances, jokes aplenty and clever songs that wouldn’t sound out of place in the West End, Showstopper! The (Socially Distanced) Improvised Musical was a riot from start to finish. As Showstopper Adam Meggido said during an interval clip, theatre has always thrived on its ability to adapt, and this unique and sharp-witted musical comedy proved that until theatres re-open audiences can still enjoy some first-class entertainment.
For more information on The Showstoppers, visit https://showstopperthemusical.com
Photo credit: Hugo Glendinning