Sunday, April 18, 2010

REVIEW: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

Showstopper! was brilliant tonight... I don't know about the other nights...
April 18 evening performance was the last performance of the Showstopper! at the Drama Theatre, The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. It was not packed but the audience was very receptive and rewarded the show with very warm applause.

Showstopper! prided itself of producing a full-length brand-new musical every night (or afternoon) during the run. What happened was that a facilitator tried to gain topics and keywords from the audience to decide on the title, the topic, and the musical styles that the show will be based on. Then... the improvisation began.

Well, the musical was the worst I have ever seen. But what do you expect? It was written in two hours! The brilliance of the show, however, was not the destination but the journey. It was how each actor picked up something thrown at them, built on it and offered it to other actors who willingly accepted it and continued to build on it. It was how the actors never tried to take the easy road (most of the time), but instead offered brilliant and naughty twists and turns to the blossoming plot. It was how the audience were kept at the edge of their seats (figuratively since the seats were built for hobbits) anticipating and worrying whether the actors will be able to come up with something or not; or better, something funny and creative.

It was not surprising to see some formulaic creative patterns particularly in the song-writing aspect. The time signature was pretty standard, rhyming was elementary ('true' to rhyme with 'you' came up several times) and song structure was pretty much '4-line verse + 4-line verse + chorus + repeat chorus + milk the chorus until it dies gloriously'. However, even with such patterns, I can't imagine improvising being easy.

The actors were all fantastic. There were some very serious acting and singing there. I particularly like Julie Clare and Philip Pellew for their amazing improvisation and performance. Lucy Trodd offered some brilliant one liners, while Adam Meggido and Ruth Bratt brought some wonderful twists to the plot.

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