On Wednesday 16th August 2017, at the Pleasance Courtyard’s Grand theatre, a new musical was born. Set in a newsroom and inspired by Hairspray, In the Heights, Mamma Mia, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat and Cats, the cast of Showstopper! presented us with Guardian of the Galaxy, an entirely improvised show that was out of this world.
The premise of Showstopper! is a precarious one, for everything aforementioned was not decided by the cast but rather the audience. It is a huge risk from a performer’s perspective to put total faith into the audience’s own creativity, crediting them as the writers of this brand new musical. Yet, the audience were more than eager to bring their ideas to the table – some definitely had come prepared. The creative director/compere for the evening was Sean McCann, whose announcement that Trump and Brexit were off limits was a huge relief for those utterly fed up with being unable to escape those topics at the Fringe. So, with the decision to ‘bump Trump’, The Guardian newsroom came alive, and we were treated to a fantastic hour of entertainment.
Every aspect of Guardian of the Galaxy was outstanding; the singing was wonderful, the limited props and set were expertly used, and the plot was both engaging and easy to follow. The cast’s creativity in terms of making up song lyrics on the spot was unbelievable, and the audience will often find themselves forgetting that nothing was scripted. As well as showing off their impressive rhyme scheming, it is also astonishing how funny the cast are. The Showstopper! team brought life to the middle-class, Quinoa-loving newspaper, mocking the periodical for its notoriously bad spelling and its competition with “The Tory-graph”. The newsroom setting also blessed us with the terrific crossword, sport and gossip trio. Their interactions with one another were rife with sexual innuendos (who knew crosswords could be so crude?) and lead to a fantastic In the Heights Latin-style tribute. The star of the show was Ruth Bratt’s Penny and her glorious ‘Gossip Trolley’. Even when Bratt was part of the ensemble, she managed to stand out and have everyone gasping for air after laughing so much.
Of course, a show like this cannot survive on just one funny character; the whole ensemble must be on their game. While there were a few slip-ups, the cast harmoniously sung and worked together to make this a masterful musical. Every performer on stage is wonderfully talented and it is together that they make this wonderful musical event. Arguably the unsung heroes of the show are the musicians, who not only provide the base for each musical number but also effortlessly adapt the score to better suit those singing on stage.
All in all, Showstopper! The Improvised Musical brought the house down with Guardian of the Galaxy. With a different audience and new show each night, this event is one you can enjoy as many times as you like.
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical
Pleasance Courtyard (Venue 33)
Until 27th August
Photo credit: Steve Ullathorne