Tag Archives: Susan Harrison


Showstopper! The Improvised Musical


Garrick Theatre


Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

Garrick Theatre

Reviewed – 7th December 2020



“showcases impeccable talent, commitment and a glorious sense of humour”


Showstopper! The Improvised Musical uses audience suggestion to create a new musical every single night. This makes for a difficult review, as despite last night’s ‘A Change of Direction’, a piece about ‘out of work’ actors finding performances in their day to day lives, being brilliant, it will never be seen again. That being said, it is clear that there is an envious amount of talent on stage; from the musicians, who improvise each song and manage to keep in tempo and melody with the actors, to the actors themselves, who pull off such an impressive range, they truly blow you away.

Entering the theatre after the UK’s second lockdown would have been a treat enough, but Oscar Thompson (sound designer) collated an uplifting array of musical theatre anthems and the audience, despite being socially distanced, is immediately uplifted and ready to have some fun. On the front of the stage there is a large, branded banner, asking audience members to text in ideas for what the musical could be about tonight, as well as favourite musicals that they’d like the cast to style their improvisation to. With a ring of a red phone that lights up centre stage, it’s clear we’re ready to begin.

From the outset of the show, when an unnamed person (performed by Dylan Emery) answers the phone to a mysterious producer, the humour in the show is set alight. Emery announces that he is delighted to be finally asked to put on a musical after such a long period of ‘theatre drought’ and comically says that he will have it ready in 75 minutes without a problem. Emery’s intelligent and relevant humour works beautifully as he effortlessly engages with the audience throughout the show. He begins reading out the audience’s suggestions; what they have texted into him for musical ideas and themes. When the audience has decided (through cheering for their favourite title) the improvisation begins.

A standout performance was given by Justin Brett, whose charm and charisma was effervescent. However, an astounding level of skill was displayed by each person on the stage. The actors and musicians transition with ease between operatic numbers in the style of Phantom of The Opera, to making up rap on the spot so that they might imitate Hamilton. This show is particularly brilliant if you’re musical theatre knowledge is expert; if you know the stylings of Sondheim, to the opposite on the spectrum SIX, each impression is faultless. I worry that this might have been lost on first time musical theatre goers, but the cast and band’s ability would be impressive still. A highlight in the show occurred when the actors didn’t in fact get everything perfect; their panicked stares as it became clear they were running out of things to say was embraced by the other cast members and was celebrated with hilarity.

At various moments throughout the show, Emery will suddenly stand, freezing the cast and announcing a development he’d like to enforce (usually taken from the most outrageous message he’d received in from the audience) to ensure that the cast are keeping to a story arc and structure. This works perfectly should the cast begin to go off subject or reach a dead end in their improvisation. The only criticism I would have is that the cast on occasion don’t fully listen to Emery’s direction and so there is a tendency to labour the point a little, but perhaps they were buying themselves time to think in response to one of Emery’s daring requests!

All in all, this musical showcases impeccable talent, commitment and a glorious sense of humour. It was clear that no one on the stage was taking themselves too seriously, which is hugely welcome by a world starved of live entertainment.


Reviewed by Mimi Monteith

Photography by Geraint Lewis


Showstoppers! The Improvised Musical

Garrick Theatre – various dates until March 2021


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Brainiac Live! | ★★★★ | August 2019
Rip It Up – The 60s | ★★★ | February 2019
Bitter Wheat | ★★★★ | June 2019
Noises Off | ★★★★ | October 2019
Potted Panto | ★★★ | December 2020


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How to Date a Magical Creature

VAULT Festival

How to Date a Magical Creature

How to Date a Magical Creature

The Vaults

Reviewed – 23rd February 2019



“By the end of the hour-long performance, the format had become somewhat repetitive”


The Vaults as a venue promises a quirky and original viewing experience, while the play fitted perfectly with the venue’s vibe, it slightly missed the mark. Although not quite a laugh a minute, it was funny and quick witted.

Upon entering the space you see a keyboard in the corner of the room, the man on the piano performs gently while a heavy mist rolls in; some of the set is still being placed and you begin to question whether the play has already begun or if the venue staff haven’t noticed the audience enter? This casual approach to the performance continues throughout.

The premise itself is simple, this is a chat show hosted by one Toby Vanilla. The audience provides suggestions for magical creatures and the cast improvise a character based on the name. These can be existing fictional characters or something made up on the spot. In this instance, the show opened with the appearance of a Dalek.

Creating situations to explore, the host guides the improvisation that ensues. While no character particularly stands out, without a very capable actor playing the role of Toby Vanilla, the performance would fall apart. He engages with the audience, holding their attention, allowing the performance to adhere to some kind of structure.

There was no denying that the piece was at times comedic, with moments where the whole audience was in stitches, but it just not consistently funny. By the end of the hour-long performance, the format had become somewhat repetitive.

How to Date a Magical Creature was a mostly enjoyable performance with some very talented comedy actors. However, without some development in its format, it is not a show I would actively seek out again.


Reviewed by Gemma Bees


Vault Festival 2019

How to Date a Magical Creature

Part of VAULT Festival 2019




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