Browse reviews

Edinburgh Fringe 2010

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

Showstopper Productions - Festival Highlights

Genre: Musical Theatre

Venue: Gilded Balloon


Low Down

Taking audience suggestions and turning them into a competent musical, with plot, narrative and themed songs is the order of the day with the Showstopper! team – and boy do they do it well.



As a bit of a Showstopper! aficionado I was looking forward to yet another smashing musical from the team – and I wasn’t disappointed. In their new Edinburgh home of the Gilded Balloon debating hall, they had a large stage to play with, and on only their second day of performing the seats were gratifyingly full.

The format is always the same – take from the audience suggestions for an epic theme, a title and a location for an opening scene. Hugely simple but fantastically effective. That this format is successful is due in no small part to the selective hearing of the director character. Taking audience suggestion, he disregards the banal and downright base offerings – thank God! As anyone who has witnessed bad improvisation is aware – as soon as poo or sex is mentioned, the scene is bound to descend into confusing profanity, amusing some and appalling more.

Thankfully this doesn’t happen at Showstopper! and we are treated to a musical about the topical subject of Global Warming. The actor/singers are very talented and the pianist and clarinettist are nothing short of genii. Bringing in the cast with an upbeat opening number – the company seamlessly work together to improvise chorus and lyrics, with excellent results.

Highlights included the scene where a secretary was challenged by the director to immediately come up with 5 dental-related similes about why her boss was so great, and when the leader of a violent direct action group asked his team to swear an oath in unison – no mean feat when every word is completely unrehearsed.

Although the show I saw was very competently sung, and I came out with a catchy tune stuck in my head – somehow the plot didn’t quite live up to expectations, and I felt as though some comedic opportunities were wasted. The show was also brought rather quickly to its conclusion, and felt a bit rushed and unfinished.

These are however minor points, and of course to create anything with an iota of plot development when improvising in front of 300 people is an impressive achievement.