Sheffield theatre audiences see Showstopper! musical created from scratch on Lyceum stage

A clever new musical show is completely improvised on stage by an amazingly talented cast of performers.

By Julia Armstrong
Monday, 15 April, 2019, 18:57
Showstopper, the improvised musical, at Edinburgh last year

Here, Adam Meggido from the cast answers questions about Showstopper! the Improvised Musical, on stage at the Lyceum in Sheffield this week. 

Can you tell me what the audience can expect from the show?

A musical! With catchy songs, dazzling dance routines, sweeping storylines and hilarious characters. The only difference with our show is that EVERYTHING is entirely made up on the spot out of audience suggestions. It’s all 100% improvised. What inspired you to develop the concept of Showstoppers!?

About ten years ago, some of us were working with the great theatre maverick Ken Campbell. Ken was inspired by a troupe he had seen in Canada called Die Nasty. He said their improvisation was so slick, entertaining  and impressive that it was better than a great deal of scripted theatre.

We decided to do the same with a musical. The Showstoppers love musicals - and we love improvisation - so this project was a perfect fit for us all!…and how did you all meet? 

Some through Ken Campbell, some through Dylan Emery (co-creator/director of Showstopper!). We are an eccentric rag-tag bunch of misfits and oddities and somehow that works perfectly for this show!

 Is there a recipe for good improvisation?

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The basic principles are actually quite simple. The rest is practice. It’s mostly about listening. Real listening. Listening to each other’s ideas, agreeing with them immediately and building on them. For Showstopper, of course, we have to know our musicals so a huge amount of hard work is part of that recipe too.I imagine that a strong relationship between the cast members is fundamental to the success of this show. Can you almost second guess each other's responses?

Sometimes yes. But often the real fun is when we clash and don’t quite catch what’s happening. The audience sees everything, of course, so they enjoy seeing these clashes and wondering how we are going to get out of the trouble we have put ourselves in! The relationship is not just between performers but also the band, our lighting operator and of course, the audience. (Don’t worry - there is no awkward, forced audience participation!)

Do you have back-up material that you can pull out of the bag if necessary?

Nope. Never. It doesn’t help to do so. Trying to plan anything in advance actually makes it more difficult to improvise. It’s genuinely easier to stay calm, present and be in the moment. Riskier - yes - but ultimately that’s how the show is created.Apologies for the cynical tone of this question, but do you ever get accused of planting audience members with specific requests? 

All the time. There are some people who will never believe its improvised. I guess it’s a compliment in a way. After all, we set out to create a show that doesn’t look improvised. But what can we say? It honestly is entirely improvised with no plants or stooges. Some people have seen the show 50 or 60 times! they would have said something by now if they thought we were cheating. Anyway, where’s the fun in having plants in the audience? We genuinely want to be challenged. 

Showstopper! the Improvised Musical is at the Lyceum in Sheffield on Saturday, April 20. The show’s 2pm matinee is aimed at being a fun performance for children. Book online at www.sheffieldtheatres.co.uk