They will be at The Capitol on Saturday, October 16.
Showstopper Dylan Emery explains: “The entire point of the show is that it must all be improvised using audience suggestions. The whole point is what would a fully-scripted fully-choreographed musical look like if it was made up on the spot? The audience literally have to give us everything and it has to be incredibly precise. We need a theatre that looks like a theatre and lighting that can be improvised on the fly and we have got a band that are improvising in the moment… everything that makes it look like a proper musical.
“When we first started doing this, we wanted to give it a fairly strict structure, Act One, Act Two, Act Three, but then we realised that if we had a strict structure then the show itself would start feeling familiar in that it was often a young person who would leave a thing and then go and do a thing, so we decided not to do that. We start with no idea where it will go, whether it will be a romcom or a thriller or a big war epic. We have to be utterly open to where the audience goes.
“It needs the audience to be engaged. What the audience sees at first is a writer of musicals at a desk and the phone rings and he is told a new musical is needed and it is needed now. The writer, who is effectively the MC of the show, puts his hand over the phone and tells the audience that he needs their help to get this musical written right now!”
Dylan stresses they are not doing a parody of a musical: “The idea is simply to make a great musical. A great Showstoppers musical will always have an incredibly beautiful moment where the audience will want to cry, but there will also be an awful lot of us messing around.”
They have lost track of how many times they have done it now, around 1,500 times: “We do record them. Well, we used to record them a lot more, just to see what we could have done better, if there was a beautiful moment that we missed and or something hilarious going on that we should have made more of and should have made last longer.”
Built into it all are ways for the performers not to slip onto paths they have already trodden: “The writer will stand up and say ‘This is great but it would be better if we made it more dramatic.’ And we will also ask for musical theatre styles. Something might be like a lost Les Mis song or maybe something a bit Sondheimy. But the setting is different each time. We literally can’t repeat ourselves because one night we might be on the Titanic, another night in a kebab shop. We are creating a new thing every time. The pattern we could get into might be that character A loves character B who loves character C, but there are ways to avoid becoming predictable. The actors will always want to go for the new thing, and secondly, this is where the audience will come in again. The writer will say ‘Well, I think we all know where this is going to go! What can we do?”
It’s also important to encourage the audience to come up with something grandiose to start with. There is not a lot you can do with a musical set in a toilet in Scunthorpe: “I would say to the audience ‘No, let’s think of something where you would genuinely be happy to pay West End prices.’ Someone came up with a mobile petrol station the other day. Someone said the last days of Pompeii and you think ‘Now you are talking!’”
And the pandemic? Well, no: “You would spend the whole time skirting around the fact that people have died. We have done a serious one before. We did a musical set in World War Two which was very heartfelt. It was talking about sacrifice and loss.
“But for the pandemic you would have to go and see a news review. not us!”