The improvised musical
The Other Palace, 12 Palace Street, London SW1E 5JA to 16 March 2019.
Mon – Thu 7.30pm. Fri. 5.30pm & 8.30pm Sat 2.30pm & 7.30pm.
Runs 2 Hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 087 7900.
Review: William Russell 30 January.
Something wonderful and new every night
Improv is not, I have to admit, my bag, so for that reason I have managed never to see the Showstoppers who create musicals on the spot and have now passed 1000 performances here, there and everywhere it seems. This sorry state of affairs has finally been rectified and a wonderfully funny, tuneful and most skilfully performed affair One Block Away the musical proved to be. I would go and see it again, except that it will never be done again.
This is their first London run since they won an Olivier Award in 2016 for what is by any standards a risky business, a trapeze act without a net. And a joyous occasion it proved to be – the writer and host, Dylan Emery, welcomes the audience, asks for suggestions for musical titles, for performers, for styles, locations and fields the responses beautifully. He opted for the request for a musical about the last Blockbuster video store which turned out to be located in Anchorage. The story line also involved things like 1940 detective agency, art house movies, Cher, 42nd Street and Magic Mike, a male stripper, and proved to be a ripe old mix.
If there was a choice of topics the audience decided, but not all suggestions were put to the vote, some, however, re- emerged during the performance, others were quietly forgotten. In other words it is not anarchy on stage, even when it looks like it. There are some suggestions they do not accept – like Brexit for fairly obvious reasons. What may be funny in SW1 can be anything but in Leeds.
The resulting show was a splendid tale of two men, the video shop owner, and a customer who loves the same woman and end up trapped inside a video – don’t ask – while things happen round about, like a 42nd Street production number, Cher warbling amazingly, and someone doing what Magic Mike does along the front row of the stalls. The opening song – One Block Away- was catchy – and the performers have to be seen to be believed as they rise to the challenge with the ease of practised performers, but still aware of the dangers the they must face – like forgetting just where they are in the convoluted plot.
It would be nice to say it was unmissable, but it will never be seen again. They do, however, record the songs so the best of the bunch will, once they get their merchandising act together, be there for posterity to enjoy. The man two seats down from me had seen them 51 times. I am not sure I will rival that achievement but I will go back. One Block Away was miles better than many a musical I have endured.
Chloe Potter – @Musicby Chloe.
Production Photographs: Alex Harvey-Brown.