Step aside amateur improvisers – the professionals have hit town.
Indeed, the cast of ‘Showstopper:The Improvised Musical’ are so capable in their off-the-cuff, unpreparedness they don’t merely stop at dialogue but are able, within the space of a couple of hours, to send the packed-in crowd at Curve’s studio home having watched (and co-designed) a fully-formed, high quality, new musical.
Cameron from London is on the phone. He needs a new show pronto but it shouldn’t be a problem for the co-writers from Leicester, guided through this process by a confident Sean McCann. After the success of last year’s ‘Leicester Forest East’, the audience are once again given opportunity to locate the show anywhere we might like. “Richard the Third”, shouts out one chap somewhat missing the point. By popular vote, St. Margaret’s Bus Station is chosen as the location for our musical, a blue place where the pigeons roam freely amidst the wee. Our new masterpiece, ‘Final Stop: Urine Luck’ is born.
Asked for some musical styles and influences with which to populate the show, the audience come up with ‘High School Musical’, ‘The King And I’, ‘Rent’, ‘Calamity Jane’ and ‘The Greatest Showman’. It’s a varied mix but nothing that’s beyond the craft and skill of the assembled cast and musicians. Songs neatly mimicking the styles of each come to the fore as the plot develops.
Under the watchful, almost malevolent eye of St. Margaret (Dylan Emery), two young newlyweds (Ruth Bratt and Justin Brett) return to the bus station from the wonders of Paris. Signs of strain are already beginning to show within their marriage as one yearns again for the glamorous baguette whilst the other is content with munching on a pork pie whilst going round and round on the ring road. The couple go on an adventure to discover what’s missing in their relationship; an epic bus-ride with a Calamity-Jane like tour guide (Lucy Trodd) takes in Antartica, Australia and Shepshed. Nuggets of truth are discovered along the way as we build to a crescendo and the interval during which the audience are encouraged to tweet ideas for the second half of our musical.
The second half descends into alcoholism and industrial tribunals (in the manner of Sweeney Todd) as the show goes back in time and imagines what might have been for our newlyweds had they chosen not to tie the knot in Paris. Confronted with stark images, homeless, desperate and destitute, the couple realise the error of their ways and it all ends happily ever after.
The plot, as cleverly and impulsively crafted as it is, is not the thing to marvel about in this production though. To be able to conjure something such as this out of a few audience suggestions must take years of skill. To trust in your fellow performers so greatly and to be on the same wavelength when one riffs in seemingly random fashion must use up so much mental energy. To come up with punchy, vibrant and note-perfect singalong hit choruses that are frankly more toe-tapping and memorable than some witnessed in more ‘rehearsed’ shows is a mark of absolute quality. All of this leads to a truly magical musical experience.
“How on earth did they manage do that?” asks one chap as we march out of the theatre. In truth, I’m none too sure but I’m exceptionally tempted to head back to Curve again the next night when the experience is repeated again and another new musical is created.