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  • Writer's pictureBecky Wallis

Showstopper: The Improvised Musical - Edinburgh Fringe 2022

Images not of performances mentioned

Over the years, the Edinburgh Fringe has become known for many things; street performers, mad dashes from venue to venue and comedy acts that are simply impossible to resist. Improv comedy has always proved a popular choice at the festival, and some theatre companies have become so well known for it that they are amongst the top choice to see at the fringe. And when it comes to inventing a show on the spot, you can’t go wrong with the Showstopper team, who make up a brand-new musical solely based on audience suggestions.

The show begins with a phone call on the big red phone, it’s the producer. He has another theatre that has gone dark, and he needs a new show, within the next 65 minutes. Cue the host (Sean McCann) asking the audience for their suggestions, a setting, a title, and some musicals for the songs to be inspired by, and what follows is the creation of a fully developed musical with storylines, plot twists, musical numbers, and everything else, all made up as it goes along.

Edinburgh Fringe 2022 was my third and fourth trips to see the Showstoppers in action live in person, after watching them in London pre-Covid, last summer just as theatres reopened and multiple times in their live streamed productions online. And every time I see them, I am always amazed at how they can create a show that works so well without discussing anything, without planning anything and with just a few ideas from the audience.

In the two shows I attended we were treated to ‘Music Makes The World Go Roundabout’, a musical telling the story of some ex-offenders doing community service on a roundabout in Milton Keynes, with songs in the style of Starlight Express to name but a few. This was followed a couple of days later by ‘I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie’, a love story set in a book shop that featured songs in the style of Hairspray, In The Heights, Matilda and The Greatest Showman’.

The cast for ‘Music Makes the World Go Roundabout’ included Adam Meggido, Ali James, Phillip Pellow, Ruth Bratt and Susan Harrison with Andrew Pugsley joining them for ‘I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie’.

The music is also made up on the spot, with musicians Duncan Walsh Atkins, Craig Apps, Andrew Woolf and Jordan Clarke effortlessly making up tunes in the style of a multitude of different musicals.

I could go on for quite some time about the wonder of how the showstopper team create these shows, but that wouldn’t be very interesting to read so let me instead just pick out some highlights from each show.

Phillip Pellow had the audience in stitches in both shows, sliding around the stage on a trolley be he singing a song in the style of ‘Starlight Express’ about being a speed demon driver or just wanting to make a big entrance. Susan Harrison deciding that her character in ‘Music Makes The World Go Roundabout’ was a child of Rees Mogg caused a lot of laughter as did her Matilda inspired number in ‘I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie’ with Ruth Bratt, Adam Meggido and Andrew Pugsley about drinking, especially when they all decided to insert some swear words and really have a laugh with it.

I think one of the funniest moments was Adam Meggido deciding that his character in ‘Big books’ didn’t like to be indoors so instead spent all of his time in the threshold. But once he had said it once, he had to stick with it, resulting in him sliding around on the wheeled threshold for the whole show, even swinging on the top beam on one point.

With the possibility that anything could happen at any moment as the team create a whole new musical in an hour, you never know what to expect with Showstopper, the improvised musical, but you are guaranteed a fantastic show crammed full of laughter and chaos. Moments that stick in the mind include when even the cast get the giggles and somehow you always end up with a song stuck in your head even though it’s the first time, and possibly only time, you will ever hear it.

If you want to see the Showstoppers in action, there’s some good news for you. There is no need to wait for next year’s fringe festival, with the improvised musical team often performing in London and heading out on tours. Visit the website to see upcoming performances.


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