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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Portal 2: The (Unauthorized) Musical takes fan art to a new level

Taking fan art to a new level, Geekenders’ Portal 2: The (Unauthorized) Musical is a cheeky parody of a classic computer game that, with its combination of rewritten hits of classic musicals and minimalist set design, replicates the dark humour from the video game on which it is based on a human scale.

[pullquote]With something for fans and newbies alike, Portal 2: The (Unauthorized) Musical lives up to its hype, and may very well become its own cult hit just like the game on which it is based.[/pullquote]Based on the hit 2011 game, Portal 2, this “original” musical follows test-subject Chell, played by Patrice Bowler and Erin Mudry in matching jumpsuits, as she navigates her way out of Aperture laboratories. Her progress is hindered by a caustically malevolent artificial intelligence called GLaDOS (Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System) and an ineptly try-hard Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) named Wheatley. The game’s acclaimed deadpan humour, wit, and dark themes are enhanced by the musical’s cheeky choices and the grinning use of low-budget stagecraft to mimic the game’s high-tech world.

From the opening cadence of “Good Morning Aperture”, a play on Hairspray‘s “Good Morning Baltimore”, the audience on opening night was hooked. From the bumbling Wheatley, to the sultry yet terrifying GLaDOS, these anthropomorphic A.I.’s took the personality of a talking box and translated them into character-driven physical movement. Graeme Thompson’s loose-hipped, neurotic Wheatley is a treat for fans as he capers around the stage like a blundering puppy, while Fairlith Harvey’s GLaDOS stalks about with a self-possession that is borderline inhuman.

But it is the trio of comedic relief, Adventure Core (Stephen Blakley), Fact Core (Andrew Lynch), and Space Core (Rael Linford), who steal the show. While minor voices in the game, they are promoted to inept sidekicks in the musical. From Fact Core’s casual non-sequitors, “At some point in their lives one in six children will be abducted by the Dutch.”, Space Core’s intermittent interjections of the word “Space!”, and Adventure Core’s gravelly come-ons, the trio are the icing on this proverbial cake. Rael’s Space Core is a particular standout as his thumb-sucking twitch across the stage adds needed depth to a one-dimensional character.

Musically the show is solid, with excellent performances by Davin Reid as Cave Johnson and a trio of female turrets in the a capella number“ Here in the Darkness We’re Free”. Unfortunately though a number of sound issues caused the first few words of many entrances and songs to be lost.

Portal 2: The (Unauthorized) Musical is a wonderfully loving parody of a popular video game and like the musical episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, it shouldn’t work, but it does. With something for fans and newbies alike, Portal 2: The (Unauthorized) Musical lives up to its hype, and may very well become its own cult hit just like the game on which it is based.

Portal 2: The (Unauthorized) Musical. Book by Fairlith Harvey and lyrics by James Dunlop. Directed by Davin Reid and Jessica Mayhew. Musical Direction by Alison Jenkins. A Geekenders and Rio Theatre presentation. On stage at The Rio theatre (1660 E. Broadway, Vancouver,) until Feb 1. Visit for tickets and information.

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