Musicals are some of my favourite productions to see at the theatre. Even better when it’s a musical that I know all the words to and if it has dance moves that you can do then you are on to a hit in my mind. We’ve all heard or seen the best sellers like Grease, Wicked and West Side Story, we even know the traditional west end productions like Chicago, The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.
The question is have you ever thought about how musicals are put together or even how long it takes? The answer can be from a book, the great minds of individuals like Andrew Lloyd Webber and take forever to write the music and the script but have you ever thought a musical could be made from audience participation in 2 hours?
No I didn’t think you would have but that is where the ‘The ShowStopper! The Improvised Musical’ comes to town and shows you how it’s done.
At the start of the show you meet a musical writer who has a deadline of 2 hours and he needs the help of the audience to do it. He knows the ideas from the audience will be great and has full faith that the suggestions will blow the mind of the producer (this bit could be questionable depending on your opinion of funny).
Within 5 minutes of the show starting audience members are shouting out a number of settings for the new musical. The suggestion for the night I was there ranged from Greggs, Hadrians Wall and of course the beautiful St James Park. You could tell we were in Newcastle and lets as you could have guessed Greggs won the vote from the public and that was it; we had our setting.
Now it’s the audience’s chance to chose the type of music styles that we’re going to be sung through out, the weirder the better in the eyes of the writer who is loving some of the ideas coming from the public. The writer ended up going with Calamity Jane, West Side Story, Next to Normal and Company. Four very different musicals but the writer was ready to start but before we could go he needed a name. The new musical to hit Newcastle was ‘Sex, Drugs and Sausage Rolls’
The great thing about The ShowStoppers Improvised Musical is that no musical will be the same, every night will be a different story told by a different audiences shouting out different music types, different settings and having a different theme throughout. The audience interaction is what makes this production work, the production could not work if people are not interested in giving ideas, if you give a naff idea they kind of laugh it off but we had some opinions to play with. I wouldn’t be afraid to get your hand up and give an answer because the writer thinks of ways that they can incorporate it in to the musical.
Now the writer has a very traditional Newcastle setting, a name for his musical and even the type of music. Now let the show begin. The musical started off with us meeting the Greggs employees in a great opening song, this is all done on the night there is no preplanning and no idea what the audience might say. You have to give credit to the cast of The ShowStoppers as there is a reason that they have sold out 11 years at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, had two successful runs in the West End and won an Olivier award and had a Radio 4 series. They are smooth with their ideas and the flow is incredible and it’s definitely a talent that I am jealous of.
You can’t tell that this musical in literally thrown together in front of your eyes and that the characters are developing through out the 2 hours and even the dance moves and all the small details is made in that moment.
The writer is also great at stopping the musical at the perfect moment to get some ideas from the audience to spice up his musical. We saw our Greggs younger proteges fall in love with the younger members of the Marks and Spencer adopted family. They all come to heads at the Custard Confectionary Convention (try saying that after a few drinks). This is where we as the audience had to give the writer some ideas of things you might see at this such convention. We went with pigs (this was a confusing choice), a custard fountain and a de-lumping machine. Watching the cast work their way through these ideas you had no choice but to laugh because I would have no idea where to even start let alone make up scenes with these ideas. I definitely think the custard fountain scene which saw the young man of the Greggs establishment go for a dip with the lovely young lady from the Marks and Spencers family and pretty much declare their love for each was a highlight, the surrounding cast members pretending to be the fountain and creating the noises of the fountain was definitely a moment of madness.
When it came to interval time, the writer asked us to make suggestion through twitter. The suggestion on twitter ranged from ‘Gregg’s new clothing signals the end for M&S’, ‘Greggs partners with Ann Summers for edible underwear’ and ‘Greggs and M&S have been selling horse meat to go into the vegan sausage rolls … cue a Chicago style Greggs/M&S line up as they’re sent to prison’.
The writer went with that Greggs got smashed up and that that the style of Chicago and Hamilton rap battle would be the style that this half would take musically. The musical ends with us finding out that the Greggs and M&S families are actually all related and ending with them being a very dysfunctional family.
I will admit that the second half did take a bit of a weird turn and I definitely preferred the first half but I still overall thoroughly enjoy the musical and the production. I did find out that last year’s theme was also Greggs which is think is something that can happen if you go to the same location, the storyline was very different but I recommend that if you want to see it for a second time that you try and make sure that the idea that was from last year doesn’t get chosen.
I definitely think that I would love to see it in a different city or in the West End because you are more likely to get a collective audience who are not thinking of settings that are within the city or town that you’re from. This would be a great Hen or Stag do idea if you have a bride or groom that wants a tame night out (like my fiancé) as you get lots of laughs and you are smiling the whole way through.
Review Written by Melissa Marshall from www.melissajanemarshall.co.uk