I have never been much of a video game player. Truthfully I haven’t played one since the very early versions of Pong and PacMan started replacing pin ball machines in bars to give customers something to do while drinking. So I was a bit leery about seeing the new musical Claudio Quest, making its West Coast Premiere at Anaheim’s Chance Theater. But book, music and lyric writers Drew Fornarola & Marshall Pailet have made a very user friendly gamer musical. The show begins with Little Brother (Dylan Shube) watching his Big Brother (Joseph Ott) skillfully make his way through the many levels and obstacles of the Claudio Quest game, winning as usual. Images appear on a screen behind the players, showing the different characters and game elements. Then suddenly we are in the game itself and experiencing what hero Claudio (a winning Beau Brians), his best pal and player number two Luis (Andrew Puente) go through each cycle to save the fair Princess Poinsettia (Kim Dalton) who has been abducted by the evil Bruiser (Miguel Cardenas), a fire-breathing platypus.
When Big Brother leaves the game console untended, Little Brother, who has always been refused the chance to play, tries his luck. He lacks his older brother’s skill and soon Claudio is losing lives and characters are acting uncharacteristically, like Princess Fish (Monika Pena) whose secondary character becomes a leading player. Bruiser comes up with more complicated weapons and Claudio is really challenged to win the day as he usually does. It’s a cute little show that will probably delight younger audiences more than their parents or grandparents. . The characters inhabit The Eggplant Kingdom and their curse words are usually fruits or vegetables. The show has kind of an identity problem—is it a children’s musical posing as a hipster musical or vice versa or a combination of both. It’s quick moving and Pailet’s direction is inventive, using a series of movable platform tables (scenic design by Fred Kinney) to explore the game’s innards. Rachael Lorenzetti provided the colorful costumes. Justin Melillo’s animation and Ryan Brodkin’s sound design give the feel of a video game and the show is highly technical which caused a snafu at the very beginning of the opening night’s performance. It was quickly fixed and the show when on without any more gaffes.
The script is clever and elicits laughs along the way. The score is pleasant if unexciting and ranges from rock ‘n’ roll to operatic fringes to faux gospel with just about everything in between. The cast is young and enthusiastic and really seems to enjoy being in the game.