(All photos by Doug Catiller, True Image Studio)
Written by Alina Mae Wilson
Ladies and gentlemen, there’s a new show in town! It’s a comedic musical that delves into the psyches of sentient video game characters as they go on their adventure. Due to the plot and its format, I find myself instinctively giving writer/director Marshall Pailet points for creativity. The show is bright, colorful, and positively peppered with pop-culture references, but at times it appears to be trying to be deeper that it actually is. Nevertheless, the characters are engaging; a lot of the jokes land well, and for the most part Claudio Quest succeeds in holding the audience’s attention.
Our story starts off centered on the Claudio Bros., with elder brother Claudio decisively leading as Player 1. In a universe that requires an airborne hero to keep its law-abiding citizens safe, Claudio revels in jumping on squashy red balls (can’t remember what they’re called at the moment) and rescuing the perpetually captive Princess Poinsettia from the clutches of a fire-breathing platypus named Bruiser. Claudio’s Player 2 is his sidekick and somewhat unappreciated, younger brother Luis. One day while they are struggling with another daring quest, the enthusiastic and courageous Princess Fish, who is also Princess Poinsettia’s younger sister, joins them. Meanwhile a teen and his younger brother struggle with their video game.
I already said it, but it’s worth repeating that this show gets massive points for creativity. This is the first time I have seen a story about sentient video game characters who are not entirely aware of their role in the world(s). There is even a scene where they question their purpose and whether or not they have control over their actions. The parallels between the action in “the game” and the actions of the Big Brother and Little Brother are particularly enjoyable. What I mostly feel is appreciation for the concept rather than the actual action in the plot. The story drags in Act 1 because it focuses a little too much on Claudio and his inability to perform… We get it, you can now skip some of the pop-culture references and move along. Act 2 is definitely the more enjoyable of the two halves because it has some real action taking place, and it takes place in a reasonable amount of time. I am not saying the examination of the trio’s trials and the pop-culture jokes aren’t funny; I just wish they weren’t so long.
Visually, everything in this show is outstanding. The costumes are great; the colors are vibrant, and I do not know how the choreography could have made better use of the space. Two of my favorite moments are a chorus number and a duet. In the song “Claudio Saves the Day” the entire kingdom is in the spotlight and jumping all over the stage. It never feels like a swarm, just a joyful celebration of Claudio that I immediately want to be a part of. In “More Than One Way” Princess Poinsettia (Kim Dalton) and Princess Fish (Monika Pena) sing a duet together. The two are confined to a fairly small space within the scene, but nothing about the number makes me feel as though they trapped or limited. The choreography has them utilizing every inch they are given, which in the context of the story is kind of inspiring.
Sometimes it seems as though the script is trying to be a little deeper than it is. It is a real challenge to have both hilarity and depth. At times the characters’ motivations can be a little “we are doing this because the script says that we have to.” For example, there is a situation with Princess Poinsettia near the end that ultimately does not make a whole lot of sense, especially when you consider that so much of the show seems to be drawing parallels to real life and how people in real life think and feel. Please note that I am not offended by anything here, just occasionally confused.
Beau Brians is strong and charming as Claudio. Even his moments of struggle are endearing. Andrew Puente is sweet and believable as Luis. Monika Pena is crazy as Princess Fish, and Kim Dalton is such a delightful drama queen as the chronically captured Princess Poinsettia. Miguel Cardenas is good as Bruiser, but his character has so many jokes surrounding him, which makes it kind of hard to see him as threatening in any way. I realize he’s a fire-breathing platypus, but while we have come to revere our heroes, it seems to be a shame that the villains do not inspire a similar respect. Each member of the cast is excellent, but I would be remiss to not mention Ashley Arlene Nelson as Boof. She is hilarious in every single scene. Poor Boof does not get the attention she deserves –let her finish her songs!
If you are or have ever been a fan of Mario Bros., I would see Claudio Quest. If you enjoy pop cultural references and jokes everyone is going to get, I would see Claudio Quest. The score isn’t necessarily an A plus, but the cast is great; some of the jokes are funny, and I can think of one or two songs that I’ve been singing ever since seeing it.
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