Last night, the Oxford audience rejected Parliament, the Kremlin, Ancient Rome and Martin's Department Store as the setting for its musical, and voted with its hands and lungs for ... an undertakers.
Stiff!!! – the musical created from scratch before our eyes last night – fully deserved its three exclamation marks; and judging from the rapturous applause, the sell-out audience wholeheartedly awarded it five stars.
The Showstopper team have come up with a winning formula. There are not many musical shows which draw the same audiences back again and again (I can't think of many, other than Rocky Horror and Blues Brothers) but Showstopper! is up there with the best of them. This is the fifth time I have seen this seat-of-the-pants yet slick and stylish show and it certainly won't be the last.
It is always amusing to overhear first-time audience members speculating on how the team are going to manage this feat of improvisation, theorising about possible pre-prepared songs; then witness their amazement at discovering that nothing could possibly have been prepared in advance and all the music, action, dialogue and song lyrics really are invented on the spot, in response to suggestions from the audience; and finally their incredulity as Director Sean McCann interrupts the action to set the cast members seemingly impossible challenges .
Each show features five of the dozen supremely talented performers who make up the Showstoppers Squad. Last night, we were treated to performances from Ruth Bratt and Lucy Trodd (fresh from their recent Radio 4 comedy, Trodd en Bratt Say Well Done You), Philip Pellow, Andrew Pugsley and Adam Meggido (one of Showstopper's co-founders). Each one of them rises superbly to every challenge. Two of the highlights of last night's show were Ruth Bratt performing John Travolta-style 'A deep soliloquy on life and death, beginnings and endings, in the style of Grease' and Adam Meggido, playing the parts of both the aged father on his death-bed and the family dog possessed by his spirit, in the same song.
It is surprising that this is the first time Showstopper! has come to Oxford (especially since Sean McCann teaches improvisation at the Oxford School of Drama) and even more surprising that it has visited for only one evening (it is putting on seven shows when it visits Cambridge next month). As you could see looking round the auditorium, this is one of those marvellous shows which appeals to the widest possible audience, young and old alike, and a night of laughter and hilarity is guaranteed.
Please come back soon!
For more information about Showstopper! the Improvised Musical, please see the last Daily Info review of Showstopper.