If Shit-Faced Shakespeare are the unruly teenagers of the Fringe and Austentatious are its kindly aunts then the team behind Showstopper! are its venerable uncles, delivering reliable hits and good natured fun with the occasionally risqué twist. The concept of an improvised musical is fairly well-worn these days but Showstopper! remain its most high-profile exponents and, on this evidence, we should not bet against them continuing their Olivier-award winning dominance long into the future.
“Ultimate pros who are excelling at the top of the genre’s game”
MC Sean McCann invites, as ever, suggestions for titles from the audience and musicals upon which the ensemble will riff. On this occasion, the front runner for the chosen name is fairly assured from the moment it is bellowed from the back of the auditorium: ‘a bookies in Paisley’. This Glasgow-specific suggestion draws widespread whoops from the lairy early-evening audience this Saturday and a barrage of Scottish accents (of varying levels of quality) ensues. The musicals to which we are treated are Les Miserables, Kinky Boots and Mamma Mia!, the last of which delivers the improvised musical’s title: ‘The Winner Takes It All’.
Despite the excellence of the entire ensemble, the standout performers are immediately visible in the shape of Ruth Bratt and Pippa Evans, whose onstage chemistry is palpable and physicality extremely impressive (I am unsurprised to discover afterwards that they work together as one half of The Glenda J Collective). They also have the strongest accents of the group and dual brilliantly as the bookies owner and a tragic gambling addict who longs for a lost love.
Showstopper! are so astounding in their improvisational powers that it would be easy to accuse them of having premeditated and rehearsed sections. However, it is simply clear that they are ultimate pros who are excelling at the top of the genre’s game and clearly love performing with each other. I would remark that, on this occasion, the concept of a bookies ran out of steam at around the forty minute mark and there could have been a few more interjections from McCann (as is usual in other iterations which I have seen) but, nonetheless, the company deliver high quality harmonies, amusing dance routines and that rare thing for an improv show: a spontaneous narrative about which the audience actually cares.
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical runs at The Pleasance Courtyard – The Grand at 18:00 until 25th August.