Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Winter is Coming (review)

Spoilers ahoy!

No one should feel too startled to learn somebody somewhere would do a musical parody of HBO's Game of Thrones.  My suspicion as to why no one else has done it (at least successfully, despite some quite good music videos) is one of scale.

Which brings us to Winter is Coming, the musical parody from MB productions.

Apart from anything else, this show has literally the largest cast of any Fringe show I can recall seeing!  Small wonder, given the sheer number of characters introduced (all from season one of the show:  Ned Stark (M Hayward Scott), Catelyn Stark (Emily Craig), Robb "the pretty one" Stark (Nicholas McDonald), Sansa Stark (Deanna Baker), Arya Stark (Stephanie Sandelin), Bran Stark (Casey Suddeth--who looks like Theon Greyjoy but never mind), Jon Snow (Brice Williams), etc.  And that is less than half the cast!  Other major players include Queen Cersei (Bennett Cousins), her brother Jaime Lannister (Michael Orlandi), her son Joffrey (Tony Celluci) and of course her younger brother Tyrion "The Imp" (Matt Hill).

Halfway done?  Nope.  I'm not kidding.

What with remarkably good costumes, catchy music, generally high production values and a cast that shows plenty of talent, what more could you ask for?

That is precisely what I would ask for.  More.  Because despite all the production managed to do, at just about one hour this musical cannot help but end up too short. If you are telling nothing more than a series of jokes, that becomes dull pretty quickly.  This show does not settle for that, putting it (at least potentially) alongside such successful parodies as Young Frankenstein or A Very Harry Potter Musical. But at a mere hour it doesn't have time to really explore its material.  Most of the characters don't really have anything like an arc save Daenerys (Megan Watt) and the two Stark daughters.  In a comedy and/or parody, a character arc need not make a whole lot of sense, but it still needs to be there.  As it stands, one has to wonder why most of this cast is even in the show?  Jon Snow's story goes nowhere, ditto Cersei and Jaime and even Tyrion! The stuff of character blended into comedy is there, just lacking the time to really develop.

For example, I loved Catelyn's patter song trying to warn her husband of the Lannisters, only to have him pretty much pat her on the head and say she's a woman so doesn't understand these things.  Her reply to this was a great bit on many levels.  But what was going on with Robb and Bran?  Well, nothing but a pep talk really.  Joffrey's diabolical little anthem celebrating his evil was lots of fun, but kinda exists totally on its own.  Daenerys had something like an arc, but it moved by so fast I had to think for a few minutes to realize this made some kind of sense within the context of this musical.

Again, all the elements of something first rate are there.  Some in nascent form, but present!  But this parody needs a second act to stretch out the story so we get caught up in events--especially since the plot remains rather complicated.  I want to see the full length version.  I want to see it quite a lot!  Because what I got was fun, but what seemed to be waiting in the wings of time seemed great!

Other cast members who deserve mention (most played multiple roles): Amanda Newman, Kaitlyn Abendroth, Caleb Cordis, Amber Lawson, Alex Hurren, Jesse Baldridge, PJ Megaw, and Robert Steinberg.

Winter is Coming plays Saturday June 25 at 8:30pm and Sunday June 26 at 2pm at The Actors Company 916 N.Formosa Ave (west of LaBrea, south of Santa Monica).

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