Showstopper! The Improvised Musical

"A chaotic, hilarious, quick-witted masterpiece of musical theatre"

Showstopper! The Improvised Musical has its opening night at Theatr Clwyd (quite literally) – as the audience have the power of creating a new hit musical, with the cast and band being completely unbeknown to what is about to unfold. We meet a musical writer who is on a deadline to create a new musical, and with the help of his writers’ group (the audience), a chaotic, hilarious, quick-witted masterpiece of musical theatre is created – what could possibly go wrong?

What makes this show a complete success is the fact that no two shows are the same as the audience has complete control of the storyline and the course it takes – this is where the performers must be commended for their fantastic showmanship. They take the storyline completely in their stride, no matter how chaotic and silly it gets, and run with it with confidence and ease. With the audience giving suggestions such as “witchcraft”, “Wetherspoons”, “murder” and “Welsh rugby” – (it wouldn’t be a visit to Theatr Clwyd without patriotic audience members), the performers demonstrate their quick thinking and talent as they form a story that is completely silly, but still has the best qualities of a fantastic musical. With many plot twists (thanks to the audiences’ hilarious input), good character development and lots of catchy songs, a Broadway worthy musical is produced. 

There is a small cast size of only six members, but each performer completely owns the stage and makes it feel complete. Sean McCann who plays the struggling writer, has such a good rapport with the audience and creates a safe space in which the audience feels welcomed to shout out their crazy ideas to move the story along. Andrew Pugsley is hilarious in playing the over-the-top, irksome thespian and switches between his characters with ease, never breaking out of character when chaos ensues on stage. Justin Brett has the audience in the palm of his hands throughout, sometimes making jokes a bit too close to the knuckle but pulling them off with charisma and a real likeability. Ethan Pascal Peters demonstrates a superb understanding of improvisation with highlighted moments in the show - ordering a drink from a Parisian Wetherspoons in lots of different languages and turning into a soap dish when a spell goes terribly wrong! Philip Pellew is a joy to watch, and even when his character is in the background, you find yourself drawn to the hilarious and quirky mannerisms that he portrays. 

Duncan Walsh Atkins and Calie Hough form the band and have excellent collaboration skills to create the music inspired by the audiences, with diverse suggestions such as “Oklahoma”, “Lin Manuel Miranda”, “The Beatles” and “Eurovision”. With added quick-witted lyrics from the cast (which do not always make sense but add to the humour), catchy and memorable musical theatre songs are created, commended by the fact that you can hear the audience humming and singing along to the repeated refrains upon exiting the theatre at the end of the performance.

The staging is set up quite simply – there is a big neon sign overhead that states ‘Showstoppers’, a set of moveable stairs and a couple of moveable frames. This makes sense given the nature of the show in which there is no predetermined storyline. However, this works effectively as with the bonus of a few props and fantastic acting, the audience can still get a sense of where the storyline has transported to. 

With eleven successful years including a West End run, an Olivier award and a stint at Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, it is no wonder that Showstopper! The Improvised Musical is continuing to delight audiences year upon year. It is a show that keeps the audiences guessing and gives theatre fanatics a fun insight into the experience and processes of creating a musical. With its recent announcement of its residency at The Cambridge Theatre, I truly hope that many theatre fans get to experience the pure joy and chaos of this improvised musical. 

This show was reviewed on the 23rd March 2023.  Showstopper! The Improvised Musicals runs at Theatr Clwyd until the 25th March 2023.  Tickets available here: Showstopper! The Improvised Musical | Theatr Clwyd

For full tour details visit: Home - The Showstoppers (

Review written by Vicky Humphreys


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