FROM the frenzied cheering throughout to the standing ovation at the end, you’d have thought this was a hit Broadway show playing in London’s glittering West End rather than a wet Wednesday night in Edinburgh.
And the cast fully deserved that rousing reception. Put it this way, as a chap with an avowed aversion to musicals, I was aghast when the Editor sent me to review this but even I, the Ebenezer Scrooge of musical theatre, was thoroughly won over by what is a simply joyous show.
Some of this could be put down to being swept along by the joy of the crowd. The audience was certainly full of people with a deep love and knowledge of musicals. For example, when the MC asked for suggestions of shows or genres they could use, someone shouted “Come From Away!” and EVERYONE knew that meant we’d have a Newfoundland folk number based on the hit Canadian musical. Except me.
But, really, it’s the cast that make this show. They ask for suggestions for locations, styles and titles which they can then improvise around, and for this – the very first show in what is already a fast-selling Fringe run – they ended up with a show based on a delayed Ryanair flight brilliantly titled “Brace! Brace!”
The shouted-out styles included the aforementioned Come From Away, rock opera and West Side Story, and my heart sank at the latter as almost half of my secondary-school musical “education” consisted of sitting in sullen silence as this was shown to us on a seemingly endless loop.
But my prejudices were blown away as the cast seamlessly wove the styles into the narrative – OK, sometimes they had to crowbar them in! – and added numbers in other styles. A particular favourite of mine came when the captain appeared to explain why the flight was delayed a la Gilbert and Sullivan, complete with “Three Little Maids” chorus line.
I also loved Gregory, desperate to make the Rubik’s Cube competition in Bali, and “aggressive passive, not passive aggressive” mother who sounded like a Northern Maggie Thatcher. Speaking of accents, I’m still unsure why Svetlana the Russian athlete sounded like she was from Llandudno.
The real genius, though, comes when you see a member of the cast come up with an inspired bit of improve and their colleagues, though often “corpsing” at something they haven’t heard before, effortlessly pick it up and run with it.
A Fringe favourite, it’s not hard to see why this Olivier Award-winning, West End hit show is in its 13th year in Edinburgh.
Showstopper: The Improvised Musical, 21.30, Pleasance Courtyard