Co-creator and director Adam Meggido talks about SHOWSTOPPER! THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL and the inspiration behind the show
Following a successful eleven-year run at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as a BBC Radio 4 series and a critically acclaimed run in London’s West End, must-see phenomenon SHOWSTOPPER! THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL heads out on a UK tour.
Created from scratch at each performance, the award-winning show sees a group of incredible performers turn audience suggestions into all-singing, all-dancing productions with hilarious results. Whether its Rodgers and Hammerstein set on a ferris wheel or a little Sondheim on Mount Everest – you suggest it and the Showstoppers sing it!
Ahead of its run at Salford’s The Lowry, co-creator and director Adam Meggido talks about his inspiration behind the show and what audiences can expect from SHOWSTOPPER! THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL.
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?
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 if 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.
How much of the success of the show is rooted in the tension created by the feeling of ‘will they mess up’?
The element of danger is essential. It’s essential in all love theatre but often lacking. Well. you’ll get it by the sack full in this show.
Are you all risk takers? I’m guessing the answer is yes…
Not all of us. But put us on a stage together….
How hard do audiences try and bamboozle you with outlandish suggestions?
A great deal. Usually, the ideas are not as imaginative as they initially think. Setting our show ‘in a toilet’ or ‘on the moon’ sound outlandish until you realise 1) everybody says it so it’s not very original at all and 2) it would be interesting for about 2 minutes and wouldn’t necessarily sustain a 90-minute show. We ask the audience to try to dream up their best ideas and come up with something genuinely inspiring that makes a great musical. Having said that, if you really want it set in a toilet on the moon, we’ll do it!
You’ve created so many musicals. Any favourites?
Ahhh so many… I enjoyed a musical called Don’t Look Down about couples who go white water rafting as a kind of therapy. I also enjoyed ‘The Lyin’ King’ – a story about a newspaper editor (our opening night at the Apollo in the west end). Maybe, with your help, our favourites will be the night we’re there!
SHOWSTOPPER! THE IMPROVISED MUSICAL runs at The Lowry, Salford on 17 January 2019.
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.