If you haven’t heard of it then in brief it’s a fast-paced, improvised musical comedy that’s different every single night as it’s down to the audience to decide what happens.
It started in the Hen & Chickens theatre in Islington, London in 2008 and has since then performed pretty much all over the UK. It is currently on another nationwide tour which stops at Trinity on May 12 and 13 and also takes in a month’s residency at the Lyric theatre in the West End plus a month-long run at this summer’s Edinburgh Festival.
Winner of multiple awards including the 2016 Olivier Award for Best Entertainment and Family, Chortle’s Best Music or Variety Act in 2011 and Mervyn Stutter’s Spirit Of The Fringe Award in 2009, it is the first long-form improv show of its kind that’s genuinely improvised every night, making for a totally different show.
“It’s a fully-realised musical created live on the spot from audience suggestions,” a Showstopper! spokesperson further explains to the Times.
“The cast transform from suggestions of setting, genre and style with ingenious storylines and hilarious characters. The audience also name that night’s show, which is then added to The Showstoppers’ archive. From Pink Floyd to Stephen Sondheim, via a school, Ancient Egypt or a mattress shop – if the audience can suggest it, The Showstoppers will perform it. It’s hugely funny to watch.”
The group is a long running one, very well-known and renowned for their improvisation work.
“Most cast members have also received acclaim in their own right. The Showstoppers have been working on the show since 2008, figuring out how to improvise in increasingly esoteric styles, musical, dance, straight theatre, and film genres – to name but a few.”
The show has been at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe for the past 12 years and now has a reputation as a ‘must-see’ event. It had an eight-week run at London’s Other Palace in early 2019 and continues to play monthly at the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End. In the Autumn of 2015, it became the first longform improv show to have a full run in the West End at the Apollo Theatre.
Critics have lavished praise all over the show with The Daily Telegraph saying it’s ‘So polished, it defies belief’
One if its key performers Andrew Pugsley who, trained in musical theatre at Circle in the Square Theatre School, New York and has appeared internationally with improvised horror show, The Society of Strange, The Mikado at The Tabard, and Wind in the Willows at the Brewhouse Theatre, tells the Times more about the Showstopper! phenomenon….
Can you tell us what the audience can expect from the show?
We can promise them they will have a great night out, with laughs, songs and maybe a few tears as well. Other than that, we don’t know! It’s entirely up to the audience and what they choose to see on the night!
How did you all meet?
One of the great things about the group is we all have different performing backgrounds. Some of the company knew each other from stand-up and improv comedy, some from the musical theatre world, and some of us just responded to a casting notice and auditioned for the show.
Is there a formula for impeccable improvisation?
There’s no one magic formula, but there are some important principles that really help: you need to swallow your ego, to listen to your teammates and build on their ideas without judgement. We talk about approaching our work with a ‘Yes, and…’ mindset. We act first, think later.
Having worked together for so long can you predict each other’s responses?
There’s definitely some subconscious communication that goes on – it’s a bit like when you’re with your family, and know exactly what someone is thinking without them having to say a word. That said, we also love it when we surprise each other with a new and unexpected choice!
What is the musical you listen to the most?
Tough question! For me, it’s Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Assassins’. It has such an amazing score; and it’s funny, serious, beautiful, haunting all at the same time.
Have you ever been accused of planting audience members?
Oh yes! There are all kinds of conspiracy theories about how we work, and we love finding out about them! On one occasion, I overheard an audience member discussing how much our supposed ‘plants’ get paid per show – I was very tempted by the idea, since the figure was considerably more than I was receiving for doing the show…
What is the best, funniest or weirdest suggestion that has been thrown at you?
We once did a musical set inside a snow globe – it was surprisingly beautiful!
Both performances start at 8pm and tickets cost from £20. Book at trinitytheatre.net