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Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

Note: This review is from 2010

Review by Corry Shaw

There are certain words that can stroke fear into the heart of the most seasoned comedy-goer, one is 'improvised' and another is 'musical', combined they can make for some pretty scary reading.

However the Showstopper team have absolutely nailed it. Even the most traditionalist stand-up fan could not help being charmed and amazed into submission when watching this gem of a show.

Far from the awkward and clumsy student improvisation that is rife on the Fringe this is a professionally staged and brilliantly executed piece of work that is a shining example of how good improv can be. Not only do the cast follow the traditional route of taking suggestions from their audience and crafting their gags around them, they actually create a brand new, complete musical every night.

Tonight we were treated to Mafia Mia. Theme, title and musical genres all provided by the audience. The narrator, Sean McCann, becomes the onstage writer/director of the piece, stopping the action mid flow to change the direction of the narrative which is expertly performed by a cast of five accompanied by two musicians and what can only be described as a genius of a lighting director.

The most impressive thing about the show is the cast and crew’s ability to work together as a single unit and seemingly a single mind, with coordinated lighting, choreography and harmonies that are lacking in even some of the most polished pre-planned comedy shows on the Fringe.

To go into the plot and character development would be redundant as no two shows will ever be the same. But the stand out cast member is Ruth Bratt who played mafia moll Maria tonight. She gave one of the finest comedy performances I have seen this Fringe with a delightful eye for timing and subtlety. A genuine all-round talent with the singing voice of an angel and the cutting wit of the most hardened circuit comic.

The rest of the cast were almost as impressive with some beautifully executed physical comedy and exceptionally clever improvisation. Special credit has to go to Phil Hunter, the lighting designer who alongside Jason Kirk and Jules Richardson transform what could be an average show into a full-scale spectacle which could rival some West End shows. The lighting is sublime, well-timed and integral to the progression of the story and the defining of the casts separate roles.

The only real criticism that can be voiced against this production is the lack of crowd control in the initial suggestion gathering, and McCann’s occasionally stumbling vocabulary. But it is a superb production that would gain recognition as a scripted piece, let alone as an off-the-cuff extravaganza.

Review date: 12 Aug 2010
Reviewed by: Corry Shaw

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