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When I heard about The Showstoppers and their award winning improvised Musical production, I had to make sure that I saw one of the earliest shows in their tour before it ventures across London and around the UK.
The amazing thing about this live show is the fact that it is completely improvised on the night. The story, characters, song style, music style and everything else that goes into the show is entirely decided by the audience on the night, ensuring that every show is different. On Sunday 26th May, we saw the premiere of the new musical ‘If I Were In Richmond’, set in the Iron Age with musical influences from Legally Blonde, The Lion King, Spamalot! and even Oklahoma.
The show opens with the writer of the show stepping up to answer a phone call from a producer searching for a new musical. He suggests that within an hour and a half he will have a brand new original musical to pitch to him – and so the show begins…
As previously stated, everything about the musical is designed by the audience on the night, and therefore the opening ten minutes of the show consist of the narrator and writer, Justin Brett in this case, interacting with the audience in that unnerving moment when the house lights come up and you realise you are about to be talked to! Usually human interaction like this is fine and expected, however in a theatre your heart suddenly becomes a little jumpy.
Needless to say, it was great. Soon the audience settled in and were shouting answers left, right and centre. The suggestion of the Iron Age came from a young man in the stalls, followed by Musical Theatre influences shouted from around the auditorium, and finally props such as a spear and a goat (Yes… a goat) were belted randomly from the back of the room. Our musical was set to begin.
Here’s a rough run down of the story that unfolded. Felix and Winslow are orphaned brothers with no idea who their real mum or dad is. They are people of Richmond Park, a place where the ability to hunt deer can determine your worth as a man and the woman you should marry. The heart of Gazelle is in dispute. It is set that Felix, the older brother, and Winslow, the younger brother, will compete in a dance off in a range of contemporary dance styles (another audience suggestion) to determine who should wed Gazelle. Such styles as Morris Dancing, Body Popping, and the more elite dance style of Gangnam Style were featured. In a twist of fate, she decides to battle for herself. Winslow says he will battle her, but only if he can touch Kingston Rock. In doing so, he delves to the bottom of the deep, deep pool of Richmond Park and talks to his dead mother who has become a spirit of the water. Unfortunately, in a cruel twist of unexpected fate (leaving our narrator humorously a little lost for words) Winslow dies.Nine months later, Winslow’s child is born.
The determiners set by the audience led us to an improvised song list with future West End hits such as ‘No Fear with a Spear’, ‘Deep, Deep, Pool of Love’, ‘Irony’, our Lion King inspired number ‘Remember Winslow’, the Legally Blonde up beat tempo number ‘Oh My God, We’re Totally Getting Married’ and the epic meta-dramatic number ‘I’m Lucy!’ sang as a Spamalot! themed number.
The entire cast are sure to keep you laughing throughout. They are brilliant. To say that everything about the musical is improvised, they do an amazing job of keeping the dialogue fluid and coherent whilst creating actions and movement that is relevant to the scenes.
The characters, although only created for ninety minutes have a surprisingly convincing depth to them with interlocking storylines.
It is clear that the foundations of being able to create such a successful production that is completely improvised lies with the teamwork between the cast. This cast evidently know each other very well and understand each other’s voices, ranges, acting style, and also trust in each other’s ability to improvise as they lead the story between them. However, the most amazing feat for me has to be their flawless talent to harmonise. Every song could pass for a west end performance – they sounded beautiful and still kept us laughing for the whole ninety minutes. I even went out into the bar in the interval singing ‘Deep, deep pool of love’.
If you’re looking for a show to see over the next few weeks, or are around Edinburgh in the summer, make sure you search for The Showstoppers and get yourself down to create your own original musical! Give them a follow today @TheShowstoppers.