By Erin Fleming
Friends, few can deny that these are dark and confusing days. A reality TV star is running for President. The Cubs have a real shot at the series. That Verizon guy is doing commercials for Sprint now. Up is down. East is West. History is no longer a reliable source. Science has failed us. The gods must be crazy, or otherwise occupied.
So it is any wonder, amidst all the stress and uncertainty of modern times, that the popularity of HBO’s Game of Thrones continues to expand, season after season, claiming territory on thousands of DVRs and conquering the Sunday night what-to-watch battles in homes across the country? What makes its appeal so universal? What makes its fans so obsessive?
Could it be that it offers up a fantasy world free of contemporary complexity and grey areas, a world where clear allegiances are drawn, and treachery is transparent? Surely, there is solace in the oft-repeated words from the wise ones of Westeros, words that transcend time and space (and actual reality) to ring true when heard for the first, third and seventh time. That the night is long and full of terrors. That all men must die. And of course, the proliferation of pumpkin spice notwithstanding, that Winter. Is. Coming.
Or is it as simple as this exchange suggests between Ross (a fan) and Brad (an uninitiated), two characters in THRONES! The Musical Parody:
Ross: Do you like Lord of the Rings?
Ross: Do you like porn?
Ross: Then you’ll like Game of Thrones.
Whatever the reason, be not ashamed of your of your enthusiasm–nay, friends, revel in it. For both casual fans and die-hard fanatics of the show alike will have a blast at the Apollo Theatre’s THRONES! The Musical Parody. Written by the same team behind Baby Wants Candy and 50 Shades! The Musical Parody, Thrones! Debuted in Summer, 2015 at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival to rave reviews and sold-out houses before moving to London where it was described as “darkly humorous and beautifully vulgar.” The current production features a Chicago-based cast and a script tweaked to reflect events in the show’s recent seasons.
And the amount of plots and characters that it covers is impressive, using the clever narrative conceit of a group of friends gathering to watch the first episode of the new season. Soon, it is revealed that one among them, Brad, has never actually seen the show,so the group decides catch him up on all six seasons by acting them out.
Some of the laughs come from the ridiculous yet innovative ways they recreate makeshift costumes, props and sound effects from household items. Many jokes are aimed at the nature of fandom itself, targeting devotees of several other fantasy universes along the way, including those of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and boy bands from the 90s. But most of the delicious and deviant humor derives from the kind of scathingly critical commentary that can only be wielded, with love, by the truly Faithful. And from this ensemble’s Third Eye, no scene or character is safe from satirical skewering.
Victoria Olivier (Kelly) is a great Dany, reciting an ever-changing list of epithets: “I am Daenerys Stormborn, first of my name, Mother of Dragons, Queen of the Andals, Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., Sultan of Swing, the artist formerly known as Prince, Lord of the Dance, etc.” Caitlyn Cerza (Spencer) and Christopher Ratliff (Tom) serve up some hard-to-watch Lannister realness as Cersei and Jaime during the delightful “Fuck Everyone Who Isn’t Us” ode to fornication. Later, Ratliff becomes an eerily authentic Ramsay Bolton with a simple twitch of his face.
Beau Nolen’s ballad honoring Hodor is the one moment of sincerity that anchors all the silliness and is all the more moving for Nolen’s gorgeous singing. As a tall person, he overcomes the obvious comic challenge of portraying Tyrion by absolutely nailing Peter Dinklage’s British-ish cadence. Madeline Lauzon (Hayden) is hysterical as Walter Frey and handles the enviable anthem of a generation, “You know nothing, Jon Snow,” with a pitch perfect Ygritte impression. Nick Druzbanski is completely relatable as the outsider Brad, aptly depicting that feeling experienced by everyone at some time or another as the one at the party who just doesn’t get it. The revenge he wreaks on his friends at the end—well, SPOILER ALERT—it’s worthy of the show it parodies. Also, his Sir Jorah is hilariously evocative of Sean Connery.
Director Hannah Todd and Choreographer Sawyer Smith set a high standard right out the gate with the curtain raiser “Thrones!” attempting to recreate the CGI animation of the show’s opening credits with human bodies. (They do!) It starts off with sex, violence, profanity and depravity and it just gets better (or worse, depending on your point of view) from there. The show races along enjoyingly, hitting some expected highlights: the men of the Watch, the Walk of Shame, the Red Wedding, the White Walkers, and an applause-worthy simulation of a flying dragon. Between the character impressions, physical gags, and lyrics simply laden with puns and allusions, it’s impossible to catch everything the first time through. This is a show to be seen more than once. Followers of the both the old gods and the new will agree, send the ravens—this is a hit!
“THRONES! The Musical Parody” is presented through November 13 at the Apollo Theatre, 2540 N. Lincoln Ave. More information and tickets ($39 – $59, $20 for student rush as available) are available here.