Showstopper! The improvised musical @ Northern stage February 17th 2018
Showstopper! the improvised musical is an improvised show with a musical theme, made up of a collective of musicians. Improvisers and a director. This five star Olivier award winning act were making their début performance in Newcastle having toured the country in addition to their annual Edinburgh festival run. Tonight's performance consisted of five performers, two musicians and a director as an eight piece act from over twenty players in their overall collective.
The stage was quite minimal, but used effectively. The show started subtly with a telephone ringing on stage, which was reminiscent of a scene from 60s classic batman and dealt with in a similar way. The director then had a pretend conversation with his boss about needing to write a musical by nine thirty (which ended up finishing at ten, due to unforeseeable circumstances explained below) It was at this point the director offers the audience the chance to make suggestions that will help create the show. Two guys called Ben made suggestions that received luke warm support in the end the location selected by the audience was Greggs, another suggestion of Whitley Bay (not Whiby bay which was mistakenly heard by one of the cast) was also used. Various musicals were selected to inspire scenes, such as the rocky horror picture show, sunshine on Leith, the book of Mormon, Hamilton and South Pacific.
Once all the suggestions were taken the play began. The costumes looked believable as Greggs attire, as we met two sisters working at Greggs, longing to meet the Gregg of Greggs, double g. The girls wrote him a letter inviting him to come and see them in Whitley Bay. There was great chemistry between the two sisters, we then saw another scene with Gregg of Greggs the baker double g and his two sons with an amusing song about how disappointed Gregg was in his two sons. One son good at icing the other a fondue fancy expert. It was at this point, the play needed to be halted due to illness of a member of the packed crowd, who seems to have fainted . After a short delay and checking the lady got the attention she needed the play resumed.
In the next scene the girls were at Whitley Bay arcade playing hook a duck and eating hot dogs and candy floss. Whitby bay was mistakenly said by one improviser and this was used as a game and played upon many times in further scenes , which is something I love about improv, making the mistakes an important part of the show. Gregg enters with his two sons and after flirting with Gregg, the girls turn their attention to the two sons. After some more songs the girls and boys bond and both of the men propose before we head into the half time break.
After the break more suggestions were made by the crowd including making it more Geordie (even having the girls teach the boys how to be more Geordie using hilarious songs to illustrate being more Geordie, including phrases such as “away pet” and references to PJ and Duncan) other suggestions were made such as going to Byker, this show was very heavy on North east references. The story progressed with the couples falling out due to one of them being already married to the others fiancée. We then see the couples fighting (a great fight scene) splitting up and inevitably getting back together at the end of the play. Susan Harrison had two main parts, as well as being one of the Greggs workers sisters, she also played Greggs wife, who seemed one minute to be dead and the next just estranged, but that’s improv for you, changing your mind about what’s important in the scene is a good way to make it more interesting. My favourite quote from the show being From Lucy’s character one of the sisters “This was suppose to be the bay of dreams, not the bay of shit.”
Overall this was a great show, professionalism all the way through, even after the show had been paused due to illness in the crowd. The acting, singing, improvising and even dancing were top notch. All the Showstopper’s were on their A game, Susan Harrison and Lucy Trodd particularly on great form and I would thoroughly recommend this show when it comes back to the north east on it’s never ending tour.