Showstopper! – Review – York Grand Opera House
By Roger Crow, March 2018
Remember that scene in The Wrong Trousers when Gromit lays track a split second before the train runs over the rails? Of course you do. It’s one of the greatest animated shorts of all time.
Well, that’s the feeling with Showstopper!, the improv comedy musical in which a troupe of performers respond to a series of settings, music styles and so on offered by the audience. They are literally creating a new show second by second with no chance to try out anything.
“Better than some finely tuned musicals”
A lot of the same cast are present at York’s Grand Opera House, and once more the master of ceremonies guides us through the proceedings. This time the setting is Pompeii, a strange world in which people obsess over sticks, drink in a bar where folks default to a Wolverhampton accent (some better than others), and there’s a random selection of musical numbers owing a debt to Hamilton, Cats and The Rocky Horror Show.
Not all of it works. Some of it falls flat, and other scenes are a rib-tickling success. That’s the nature of the beast. And the beauty of it is that no two shows are ever the same. Thanks to my first experience of Showstopper!, I know that on a good night it’s better than some finely tuned musicals. One problem is I’ve seen The Band musical twice in less than a week, and was moved to tears on both occasions.
Coming down to Earth after that is not easy. This is my theatrical palate-cleanser, a light, fun confection that aims to be one punchline after another. Great comedy needs light and shade, so maybe the MC should have the audience write that into the opening act: a tragedy that needs to add depth to the gags.
“Large helping of good luck”
Chances are the next time I see it, the show will be tighter. Or maybe not. It’s not like they’re honing existing material in a workshop, but crafting a fresh musical every night. The fact they manage it at all is a remarkable feat.
I’d say that centring a show on stick gags was a mistake, but like a WhatsApp message, that show has now vanished.
Who knows what their next gig will be like at Hull Truck Theatre? That’s up to the audience of course, the cast (including the phenomenal Pippa Evans), and a large helping of good luck.
The good news is they’re back in this neck of the woods with a gig in Scarborough in June. If you’ve never experienced it, Showstopper! is well worth a look, and inspiring stuff for anyone who fancied doing stand-up and musical comedy but preferred to stay in the wings.