SHOWSTOPPER! The Improvised Musical brought singing, dancing, and human Pac-Man to Salisbury for one night and one night only.

On Friday (January 25), no one knew what to expect in Salisbury Playhouse waiting for the Olivier Award- winning show to begin, especially as horror springs to mind when musical and improvisation are used in the same sentence.

Showstopper! however makes improv look easy, and you almost forget that the 90-minute tale, songs included, is being made up in front of your very eyes.

The musical begins with the Main House lights up and the focus is on the audience, referred to as the ‘writers’, to decide what the production will be called and where it will be based, as well as choosing four musicals that will influence upcoming scenes and songs.

Salisbury guests decided the story would be set on a Channel Island cruise, entitled ‘Brittany Fears’, and musical inspiration would be gathered from 42nd Street, Hamilton, Disney The Lion King, and Les Miserables.

With these ideas creating the foundation of the piece, it is then up to the cast to make a story including comical characters, catchy numbers and a flowing plot, which without preparation, let alone a script, should be a very difficult feat.

This proved no problem for members of Showstopper!, as Salisbury’s exclusive show became a quest for love, an obsession with cheese and wine en route to Paris, and a very heavy emphasis on 80s arcade games.

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With actress Heather Urquhart transforming from a sultry and sophisticated French woman to Sharon from Burnley, and hilarious, gossip-fuelled exchanges between Janine (Ruth Bratt) and Melissa (Julie Clare), the cast would bring characters and personalities to life on the spot, appearing natural and as if rehearsed for weeks.

Final commendations must go to the duo who supplied tunes on the keyboard and drums throughout, and the host / writer of the show, played by Sean McCann, held the show together through flawless, friendly interactions with the audience, as well as coaxing the cast on what to do or say next with admirable charm.

The team even successfully included the title in the musical soundtrack, as Brittany Fears became an intense love ballad between characters Janine and Frederick (Andrew Pugsley).

In the rare few moments the actors were clearly trying to conjure up the next line or lyric, it was done with professionalism and just added hilarity and realness to the show.

And with no story ever the same, I’m looking forward to joining the Showstopper family again soon to watch another masterpiece form from scratch.

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