Directors: Dylan Emery and Adam Megiddo.
Once again getting to see this crack squad of improvisers practice their trade in on-the-spot musical creation brings admiration not only for the performers, but for the technical team behind it. It can’t ever be easy putting on a live improvised show, but to do it via YouTube Live with everyone socially distanced and secluded in a studio and still end up with a result that ranks alongside their legendary stage shows for quality must be a considerable challenge.
Over the course of the hour and 50 minutes (including a 10 minute break), they rise to and meet that challenge with aplomb. They have overcome the real issue of being without the usual tiny visual and physical cues that give an improviser their spur to the next idea, reacting and creating with speed and direction even while sitting alone in front of a camera in a glass box.
As usual with improvisation, a call goes out to the audience for ideas. After a brief discussion we’re off – looking at the start of a time-travel musical focused on a hot air balloon. The cast really show their practice time together as we cycle through some great songs, and a surprisingly semi-coherent narrative. Even when things seem odd, like a need to enthusiastically head up into the sky in a balloon to meet a thunderstorm, or knock a young Donald Trump over with a taxi, they make it seem somehow plausible. It even manages a very sweet, late-breaking love story. Real tenderness, though by this time the “making it up on the spot” vibe, started to properly show through.
Stylistically we’re taken on a journey through The Muppets, Jesus Christ Superstar, Les Miserables, Hamilton, and a handful of others. It’s a joyful, engaging mix. Performed by Ruth Bratt, Justin Brett, Pippa Evans, Adam Megiddo, supported by Alex Atty on drums and Duncan Walsh Atkins on piano, there’s clearly a lot of rehearsal and familiarity with the group who manage to coalesce excellently together and intuit moves with astonishing smoothness.
As the face of the technical side, Andrew Pugsley makes a solid mark. He wrangles the live comments on the chat list, pushing ideas to the cast and guiding them on plot and musical points. On top of this, he busies himself editing the programme together on the fly. The sound mixing of any live show, especially one broadcast, is a trick. Thanks to Oscar Thompson for a seamless production here.
As it’s fully improvised each time, this is a show that we’ll never see again. A shame really. There’s times that they lingered a little too long on an idea, or were struggling to find their way into a song, but the verve of the performance covers well over that. What we have here, regardless of the content, is a slick operation with talented performers. What more could we ask for?
Reviewed on 28 August 2020
Showstoppers will have a live performance at the Turbine Theatre Jetty on 17 September 2020