Event Review | Mario! A Super Musical (MusiCube)

By John Son 13.04.2016 1

Part of the London Games Festival Fringe, an offshoot of the larger London Games Festival, Mario! A Super Musical was a special performance of the musical that also previously performed at the GameCity Festival in Nottingham last year. Cubed3 was there on Saturday night at the Stratford Circus Arts Centre to take in the show.

The story was a fairly simple affair: after being unexpectedly beaten by an empowered Princess Peach, Bowser hatches a plan with Kammy Magikoopa to kidnap Mario instead, thus leaving him clear to put his own evil plans into action. Peach and Luigi then take it upon themselves to assemble a crack team of elite agents to rescue Mario and stop Bowser once and for all, with Luigi having to face up to his own cowardice and low self-esteem to successfully rescue his brother and (presumably) save the world.

The premise does sound achingly familiar, but it was quickly evident that everything, from the hammy character impressions and comically bad puns to the ultra-low budget props and costumes, was all meant to be in good fun. A lot of the humour consisted of lampshading and fourth-wall jokes, along with gratuitous references and nods to various Nintendo franchises and characters. Intentionally bad or corny puns were aplenty, as was physical comedy, particularly from the Wario and Waluigi characters, who were presented as a bumbling Chuckle Brother-esque comedy double act. As a result, it was clear that this was a parody not to be taken too seriously.

Image for Event Review | Mario! A Super Musical (MusiCube)
It would be a mistake to think that no part of the show was actually taken seriously, though - for, despite all its shortcomings, there was no denying that many of the actors and actresses could genuinely sing. While performances were generally consistent all round, Charlotte Fage as Peach, James A. Coleman as Bowser, and Natalie Rowe as Kammy Magikoopa were definite highlights - all of them showcasing their obviously talented vocals throughout the night. Props must also be given to Jordan Shiel as Red for a surprisingly accurate impression of Jason Paige on the original Pokémon theme song, and Jim Burrows as a washed-up, bitter, alcoholic Yoshi.

All of the songs featured were based on classic Nintendo tunes, which felt like both a blessing and a curse at times. Some choices did admittedly feel a little forced and awkward ("Delfino Plaza" is perhaps a tune that just doesn't lend itself well to being sung with lyrics), but at the same time, no one could argue that the "Gusty Garden Galaxy" theme couldn't have made for a better theme for the Act One showstopper. A mixed bag, then, generally speaking, but it's safe to say that the remixes were thoughtfully applied and fun enough, overall.

By far the biggest issue of the evening, however, was that the music was just too loud in parts. With the exception of a few performers who managed to make themselves heard over the noise, many voices were just overwhelmed by the music and so were impossible to hear as a result. This meant that a lot of the better musical numbers like "Luigi's Lament" (a rap number utilising the main theme from Luigi's Mansion) and the finale, "Please Don't Sue Us," were definitely not as enjoyable as they should be, for want of being able to understand what the performers were singing. This is a shame, given how a lot of the show's humour and more pertinent plot points seemed to be conveyed mostly through the lyrics, rather than speech.

Image for Event Review | Mario! A Super Musical (MusiCube)
In terms of the story of the musical itself, the show benefitted from snappy pacing, but certain scenes did end up feeling a bit unnecessary. A romance plot in the second act involving Toad and Falco came pretty much completely out of left field with little warning, and the ending scenes where the party defeated Bowser felt a little too convenient and anticlimactic - but, then, one has to ask the question whether, as a parody musical, the story and writing should be held to the same standards as any other form of media. Rarely did the writing or plot get so bad as to detract from the enjoyment of the show, however, so maybe it's a point that shouldn't be scrutinised too much.

Despite its flaws, Mario! A Super Musical still proved to be an enjoyable evening of Nintendo-related humour and parody. While it'd be easy to criticise the production values and questionable plot points, there's still no denying that the team behind it put on a fine show in the end - it's just slightly unfortunate that misjudged technical issues put a dampener on the vocal performances, which, for all intents and purposes, should have been the highlight of the evening. All things considered, though, here's hoping that this isn't the last production of its kind we'll get to see, and that there'll be similar productions to look forward to in the future.

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""Wario and Waluigi characters, who were presented as a bumbling Chuckle Brother-esque comedy double act.""

sold!

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