By Brian Scott Lipton
Writing a theatrical parody of a popular book, film or musical poses a particularly difficult challenge for its authors: how do you satisfy fans of the work in question without completely alienating those unfamiliar with it? As the current Off-Broadway hits “Spamilton” and “Puffs” have proved, it can be done – and done well.
So how does “Games of Thrones: The Rock Musical,” an admittedly unauthorized parody of the HBO megahit, stack up? It stacks up as its new title is “Shame of Thrones” and it’s already been extended thru December 30.
Let’s say that creators Steven Christopher Parker (who doubles as director), Steven Brandon, Erin Stegeman and Peter Frintup all deserve an “A” for effort, but a “B“ overall. This two-act tuner has plenty of laughs, but it too often feels like a hastily-assembled college production; indeed, the decision to use musical tracks, microphones that didn’t always work (at least at my performance) and a cast that, for the most part, can’t even carry a tune weren’t necessarily the wisest ones.
OK, onto the good news for any viewer: the show’s script does a surprisingly good job recapping the first season of the blockbuster show which focused primarily on the conflict between the House of Stark and the House of Lannister. Indeed, if you never watched that part of the series, you could probably now be almost on par with someone who did.
Of course, the whole enterprise is much funnier if you did watch the series back in 2011, especially the pointed exaggerations of the incestuous scenes between brother-and-sister Jamie Lannister (the excellent Peter Berube) and Cersei Lannister (played by Stegeman), the constant put-downs of the illegitimate, self-righteous Jon Snow (precisely impersonated by Zachary Evan Kenner), especially by his exasperated “brother” Robb (an excellent Billy Finn); the teen angst of Arya Stark (a hilarious Meghan Morovsky), and especially the ultra-heroic persona of lead character Ned Stark (a superb Milo Shearer, who is also the cast’s best vocalist), whose reign as King of the North came to a surprisingly untimely end.
There are other plusses to the script, as well, including some very fun jabs at Donald Trump (because the show has a big wall), Emmy-winning series star Peter Dinklage, who plays Tyrion Lannister (here played by the underused of very fine Drew Boudreau), and “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin (Jay Stephenson), who serves as the musical’s narrator –and the butt of his character’s jibes.
And fear not, “Thrones” fans, the show doesn’t forget about our beloved mother of dragons Daenerys Targraryen (Mandie Hittleman) and her first husband, the barbaric-yet-sensitive Khal Drogo (the mucho macho Ace Marrero), although they are treated (as they were in that season of the series) as a lesser subplot.
Perhaps my biggest issue with the show (aside from some ill-chosen casting) is the score, which seems fairly unnecessary. Yes, a couple of the songs, “The Things I Do For Love” and “The Mad Queen” are decent enough and help flesh out the female characters, but none of the show’s dozen numbers would really be missed. And I must ask if Stephen Schwartz has heard the Act II opener, “All Men Must Die,” as it borrows very heavily from his “All for the Best” (from “Godspell”). (Yes, I know imitation is the sincerest form of flattery…)
So dear creators, if you want to stay in the theater game and move this show to the next level, please take my advice: a 90-minute purely comic version is really the way to go here. Now, let the games begin!
Photos: Kacey Spivey
“Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical” (now “Shame of Thrones” continues at The Theater Center’s Jerry Orbach Theater (1627 Broadway) through December 30. Call (212) 921-7862 or visit www.ticketmaster.com.