The improvised musical that will make you laugh and cry
Imagine a completely improvised show, based on the suggestion of the public, which is not only a play, but a musical extravaganza while singing and dancing – well, that’s exactly what you get with Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.
Described as “so refined it defies belief” by the The telegraph of the dayCambridge audiences will have the chance to see these masters of their craft – live from the West End – in action when the gifted company, which includes actors from TV programs such as people do nothing, drunk story and peep showcomes to the Arts Theater for a three-night tour starting June 30.
Addressing the Cambridge Independent from Tunbridge Wells, a stop on the tour, Adam Meggido, co-creator/co-director (with Dylan Emery), said: “Every night is a wild ride, every night is completely different.
“We have just returned from Stoke, where we did a show which, surprisingly, the public wanted to put on in the plague. So we created a kind of small village in the year 973 and made a wonderful comedy out of it.
With 12 years as a fixture on the Edinburgh Fringe, a BBC Radio 4 series and an Olivier Award to their name, the Showstoppers have wowed audiences around the world with their ingenious blend of comedy, musical theater and spontaneity.
It continues to perform monthly at the Lyric Theater in the West End and in Autumn 2015 became the first long-running improv show to have a full West End run at the Apollo Theatre.
Unsurprisingly, putting on an ambitious piece of musical theater of this magnitude requires actors of a certain talent. “Yes, it takes a long time to learn how to be a Showstopper,” says Adam, who often participates himself, “it takes a wide variety of skills, a real range of skills.
“First of all, you have to know how to improvise, but you also have to understand the story and how to improvise a story. A lot of improv, traditionally, is short, quick comedy. Well, that’s fine. , but that’s not exactly what we want if we’re telling a whole story.
“You have to be able to do that and then change your gear and know when to advance the story, know when not to advance the story – know when to introduce something new, know when to keep things the way they are. .
“You need a really good understanding of the story and the dynamics of the story – and of course you need to be musical, you need to have good planning skills, you need to work very well in a team, in a set. There’s a lot going on and we’re very, very lucky to have such a talented group of people working so hard on the show.
“The musicians too, and of course our lighting guy improvises, all the musicians and sound technicians improvise – no one knows how this show is going to go and what it’s going to be. Every second is improvised.
Besides the Plague show, what are some other memorable Showstopper! performances? “Oh, we’ve been everywhere,” says Adam, whose musical, Burlesquewon Best New Musical at the 2012 Offie Awards.
“We’ve been to Ikea, many times in fact, we’ve been on pirate ships, we’ve been in space, we’ve done weird historical epics… Sometimes the most vital stories are very surprising; there was one that looked like a trendy vegan health food store that turned out to be this incredibly beautiful and very moving story about a family reconciliation.
“I remember one that when we asked the audience where it was taking place, an audience member yelled, ‘In my mother’s head! And we said, ‘Who is your mother?’ and they said, ‘My mother’s name is Jose’. We were like, ‘What, so you want a show that’s going on in Jose’s head?’
“And the audience voted for – because we come up with a few ideas and then the audience votes for their favorite so we know we’re serving the majority of our audience and also so everyone knows we’re not trying to fix anything.
“So we did this show in the head of this guy’s mother and it turned out to be very powerful – very funny and very beautiful too. I think that’s a big part of the show; it’s a show of humor, there are a lot of laughs guaranteed, but we also like to move, we also want to break your heart.
Although each night’s performance comes from audience suggestions – and viewers also vote to control the direction the show takes at different times – Adam wants to make it clear that viewers don’t have to participate.
“Anyone who has an idea can shout it; it goes on a list and then the audience votes for their favorite,” he says, “so we improvise 100%, but the audience owns the show. We like to be guided by our audience.
He adds: “Basically it’s everything you could expect from a musical – it’s just made up on the spot.”
Showstopper! The Improvised Musical will be at the Cambridge Arts Theater from Thursday 30 June to Saturday 2 July. Visit cambridgeartstheatre.com. To find out more about the show, go to showstopperthemusical.com.
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