Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical — An Unauthorized Parody
The HBO fantasy series arrives off-Broadway.
Another season of Game of Thrones is over, and HBO is staying mum about the premiere of the next (and last) installment of the mega-hit fantasy series. Meanwhile, author George R.R. Martin seems no closer to releasing his next book than he did this time last year. Fans looking for a quick fix may be tempted to check out Games of Thrones: The Rock Musical, which is now playing off-Broadway's Jerry Orbach Theater. There you can see your favorite dragon queen and sassy dwarf sing (in a sense) about their quest to capture the Iron Throne, a nice consolation prize since they won't be capturing any theater awards.
Of course, this is an unauthorized parody (by writer-lyricists Steven Christopher Parker and Steven Brandon in collaboration with composers Erin Stegeman and Peter Frintrup). We don't expect it to be brilliant (Stegeman and Frintrup's imitation Meat Loaf music certainly isn't), but we do expect it to be funny. It sometimes gets there: Zachary Evan Kanner's pouty portrayal of Jon Snow, the bastard son of Ned Stark, is amusing, as is the contempt the other Starks show him. Meghan Modrovsky keeps us guessing and grinning with an Arya Stark who is constantly going through a new phase, be it goth, hipster, or hippie (which, if you think about it, really captures the arc of her character on the show).
The rest of the musical doesn't so much comment on the story as it unimaginatively retells season one, which follows the doomed Stark clan from their happy home in Winterfell to the Westerosi capital of King's Landing, where they fall prey to the treacherous Lannisters. Half a world away, Daenerys Targaryan (Mandie Hittleman) weds the Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo (the hunky Ace Marrero) in a plot by her brother (Randy Wade Kelley) to retake the throne. Bad wigs and even worse British accents take the stage in this lighthearted comic tribute. You'll laugh, but not nearly enough to merit two hours of middling parody.
Parker and Brandon's book mostly reaches for low-hanging fruit, like an overly long bit about "the wall" that ties into immigration politics and prominently features an obnoxious red baseball cap. Jokes about Martin's precarious health (Jay Stephenson plays the Santa-like author with perverse jollity) feel similarly worn. An improvised jab at Harvey Weinstein emerges as the most daring joke of the evening.
In the comic delivery and heightened characterizations, we see glimmers of Charles Ludlam's ridiculous sensibilities, albeit refracted through several decades of The Simpsons and Family Guy. Refracted further through director Parker's lethargic production, it becomes the fantasy equivalent of an amateur production of Forbidden Broadway.
Some of the biggest laughs come from Katie Stegeman's D.I.Y. costumes, which look like a Party City catalogue come to life (just try not to laugh at the sight of Prince Joffrey in an orange Chinese qipao). Matthew Imhoff's set evokes New Jersey's Medieval Times while sensibly occupying as little floor space as possible. This is a good thing, because when you see the full cast onstage, you could be forgiven for assuming that the biggest problems in Westeros are overpopulation and mundane choreography (by Brittny Sugarman and Jessica Anne Peavy).
Canned music regularly overpowers the vocalists and obscures the lyrics in Vicki Dyar's sound design. It doesn't help that most of the vocal performances are shaky to begin with. Joe Chapman's lighting is so dark that we often cannot see the actors' faces.
By the second act even the writers seem to grow bored of their subject. Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical should only be experienced by super-fans looking to complete their encyclopedic knowledge of the franchise. Everyone else should avoid this musical like greyscale.