10:00 am EDT, October 19, 2017

‘Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical’ theatre review: Lower your expectations

By Irvin K

Adapting an obscenely popular seven-book series (which has an obscenely popular media adaptation) into a quality two-hour musical is no mean feat. But if Team StarKid could do it, then the team behind Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical has no excuse.

GoT: The Musical opts to parody the first season of the epic TV series, because anything more ambitious would be foolhardy. Given that it’s been a good long while since anyone thought Ned Stark was the show’s protagonist, it’s nice to revisit the saga’s humble beginnings and appreciate how far we’ve come. It’s strictly Starks and Lannisters in this show, with a “C plot” about Daenerys, Viserys, and Khal Drogo.

GoT: The Musical has several things working against it. Among them are some technical challenges: the sound design is virtually nonexistent, half the mics just don’t work, and whenever there’s any dancing, the entire theater shakes like it’s an overdone 4D movie. None of these aspects would be deal-breakers in an otherwise solid show, but it seems they should be easier to fix than the show itself.

Another challenge is that so much of Season 1 is setup and exposition. Let’s be honest: pretty much all we remember of season 1 is that Ned Stark got beheaded, Khal Drogo killed Viserys and then died of a flesh wound, Dany hatched some dragons, and “in the game of thrones, you win or you die.” But for any of that to make sense, you need to sit through a lot of world-building, which is pretty much all Act 1 of this show is. Act 2 is more fun, as the show finally gets a chance to breathe and deliver some punchlines.

But the biggest point against GoT: The Musical is that it’s just not very imaginative. The TV series is so popular that the collective wittiness of the Internet has been making every joke imaginable for the last six years. Consequently, all the laughs the musical goes for result in mild chuckles as I thought, “Yep, heard that one before.” For example, consider whether you find any of this especially hilarious: Tyrion won’t die because he’s won Emmys, GoT has shocking content because it’s on HBO, the Wall equals Trump’s wall, Catelyn’s name is pronounced weird. Not exactly ground-breaking material.

And half of the “jokes” are just things that happen in the show. For example, Hodor says “Hodor” all the time, the Lannisters are incestuous, Sansa is insipid and in love with Joffrey. That’s not parody, that’s just half-hearted adaptation. The device of having George RR Martin as a narrator doesn’t offer up much beyond the two wholly expected jokes: he’s heartless regarding his characters, and he’s old and fat and might die. If I’m being honest, the single funniest part of the show was the pre-show announcement to turn off your phones, utilizing Cersei’s walk of shame as the punchline. That felt relevant and funny, but it was all downhill from there.

The show’s cast all try to do their best with the mediocre material, but some of them just aren’t quite good enough — particularly as it’s a musical, and half the cast can’t sing. (One could blame the mics, but the audience is roughly twenty feet away from them, so that’s no excuse.) This feels less like a cast handpicked from the best actors available, and more like a group of friends who thought a Game of Thrones musical would be a lark.

Despite all the criticism, Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical can be a good time if one doesn’t think critically about it, or if one imbibes the alcohol offered in generous portions at the theater. It’s amusing, and as we said, it’s a fun opportunity to relive season 1 without rewatching 10 hours of television. Just don’t go in expecting it to be very good, and you’ll have an enjoyable time. The show runs through October 29, and tickets are available at their website.

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