Highlights among what was a joyful evening were the beautiful (and not at all deliberate but very well handled) collapse of Matt Powell when he absolutely fell on his face, and then nailed the graceful ascent back into the action. A moment of particular fan-girl for me was also the Duet between Pippa Drakeford and Sabrina Martin, in which the two women actively celebrated each others talent. The beauty of the duet transcended their vocal ability and clever lyrical skill, because it was a moment of absolute triumph to see two women celebrating and supporting each other so vehemently. Moments of snap-humour, straight to the funny bone, were held well by Sam Irwin and Jonny Paul, the former prizing his robot with hilarious determination, and the latter repeating famous lines from movies, seamlessly concluded with a beautiful song entitled ‘it takes me back’, with Jonny’s contribution ‘I’ll be back’. Amy Griffin-Browne’s noticeable strength was her absolute commitment to character, and the relationship between herself and Tom Hutchinson was the most touching thread of the story.
Overall, the full cast were supportive, listening, and appeared to be having as much fun as the audience…. a whole lot! My only small critique would be a few too many repeated phrases in a couple of the songs which felt, in improv lingo, like bridging. This being said the song quality overall was high and the character journeys were relatable and sweet. The robot-star gave back his voice, the ex-theatre-stars found their passion again and succeeded through lady-friendship, Othello-bot and Ophelia-bot effectively rewired themselves to feel, and it all concluded in a once again beautifully accompanied song!
What emerged during the Q & A after the show was that each performer has a deep passion for improv, and gained something slightly different from it as a creative pursuit. Also, strikingly, many of the performers didn’t really like musicals, or hadn't been in one. The fact that only two had been in an improvised musical before was staggering given the quality of the piece, and speaks to Jennifer O’Sullivan’s directorship and no-doubt thorough rehearsal process. Mary Little’s support on the lights was excellent, with well timed spots making for powerful images and soliloquies.
Speaking to Sabrina Martin, one of the performers, after the show, she shared how the show was a wonderful opportunity to ‘indulge’ in that most seductive aspect of musicals - the moment. To be able to belt at the top of your lungs and soak in the radiance of a totally uninhibited space as a performer, is a gift to the audience and to the players.
In the same way that watching Step Up 2 drove me to hip-hop all over my lounge, Suddenly! A Musical had me wandering home making up ditties about whatever passed me by. This kind of show has the ability to do that - to shake you up and make you grin and send you into a bit of sing-along. The audience engagement in this same manner was apparent, with questions from the crowd about how to get involved with the company and how to train in improv. This level of interest, and the multiple rounds of applause from the audience throughout the show, clearly speak to the talent and performance capabilities of everyone involved.
Plus, as a bonus, Kelly’s dreams came true, and what more could you ask? You may have missed ROBOT THEATRE, but you have a few more nights to hope that PlayShop make a beautiful hour-long show of your secret dreams, and my what a ride it was!
NB: I, the reviewer, am a member of Playshop as a broader company but have had no personal involvement in this show. Out of respect to the work, this site, and the performers I have attempted to stay objective in my viewing, and I hope that there is trust in the transparency.