(Cover Photo: The CAST of "THE TRAIL TO OREGON" by Nick Lang, Matt Lang, Brian Holden and Jeff Blim now playing at the Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA. through January 20, 2024. Photo Courtesy Yorick Ensemble)
By Kevin T. Baldwin
“yvaN eht nioJ."
- Nick Lang, Matt Lang, Brian Holden and Jeff Blim
Music & Lyrics by Jeff Blim
Book by Nick Lang, Matt Lang, Brian Holden and Jeff Blim
Arranged by Clark Baxtresser & Pierce Siebers
Originally produced by StarKid Productions
Directed by Michael Jay and Josh Telepman
Music Director Elias Condakes
Choreographed by Sydney T. Grant
Stage Managed by Paige DeGirolamo
Cast Includes: Josh Telepman as "Father," Katie Iafolla as "Mother," Aiden O'Neal as "Daughter," Demi DiCarlo as "Son," Tom Marsh as "Grandpa" and "Cletus Jones," Bradley Boutcher as "McDoon" and "Everyone Else"
Additional Creative Team:
Associate Producer - Tom Marsh; Assistant Stage Manager/Dramaturg - Ben Cantor-Adams; Violence and Intimacy Director - Sydney T. Grant; Scenic Design and Set Dressing - Josh Telepman; Lighting Design - Mark Sherman; Sound Design - Michael Jay; Costume Design - Josh Telepman; Props- Josh Telepman, Toni Telepman, Traci Herrod; Projection Design - Josh Telepman and Mark Sherman; Electricians - Chris Brousseau, Matthew Tse; Photography and Graphic Design - Toni Telepman
January 11, 2024 through January 20, 2024
(Contact Box Office for Exact Times)
The Umbrella Arts Center, 40 Stow Street, Concord, MA 01742
COVID 19 PROTOCOLS
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With music and lyrics by Jeff Blim and featuring a book by Nick Lang, Matt Lang, Brian Holden and Jeff Blim, the two-act comedy involves the audience from the very start, and their participation is a crucial element to the humorous odyssey everyone is about to undertake.
Speaking of "undertaking," someone dies at the end of the show and each audience gets to choose. So, expect the ending to change nearly every time.
Inspired by the popular, retro computer game, "The Oregon Trail," the sets used in this staging (co-directed by Michael Jay and Josh Telepman) are kept minimal.
However, this is also a show heavily dependent upon props and the props fly from the moment the show gets underway.
One of the show's greatest strengths comes from the fact it feels keenly aware of just how silly and preposterous it is.
This is continuously pointed out to the audience who are made to feel as if they have been brought into the show and, thus, can join in on the silliness and preposterousness.
Set in the 1840s, "THE TRAIL TO OREGON" follows an All-American, dysfunctional family (whose names change with every performance) as they set off from Independence, Missouri to head out west in search of a new life in Oregon.
The cast of the family come off as very "Griswold-like" and that aspect comes across as 100 percent intentional.
Josh Telepman expertly plays the bumbling-but-well-meaning "Father," very much in the same mold as "Clark Griswold" from the Chevy Chase "Vacation" series of movies.
"Father" seeks to get his family safely to Oregon but fouls things up repeatedly throughout the show.
This is particularly irritating to his wife, referred to as "Mother" (Katie Iafolla) who blames him for nearly every unfortunate event in her life...including, but not limited to, their children.
Iafolla gives a solid performance as the tormented parent, as does Aiden O'Neal as her "Daughter" with her many "coming-of-age" woes and Demi DiCarlo as her odd, wackadoodle "Son."
The aspect of disfunction conveyed by the cast in the relationships of this disrupted family also seems to bring with it an equal dose of balanced, genuine affection, coming even in moments of great strife. A fine testament to the actors involved.
Traveling along in a buckboard sold to them by an unscrupulous dealer (played by Bradley Boutcher , who also plays bandit "McDoon" and appears in multiple roles throughout the show).
Boutcher's expert comedic diversity is well displayed and carries much of the comedic burden.
Joining the family on their long, arduous journey is the family's staunch elder, "Grandpa" (hilariously played by Tom Marsh) although it is not totally clear, actually, if he is the parent of "Father" or "Mother."
Tom Marsh is absolutely hilarious as "Grandpa" as he seemingly channels the classic "western sidekick" (many played by actor George "Gabby" Hayes in old western movies). He also is equally convincing as McDoon's flamboyant bad guy sidekick "Cletus Jones."
Photo: The CAST of "THE TRAIL TO OREGON" by Nick Lang, Matt Lang, Brian Holden and Jeff Blim now playing at the Umbrella Arts Center in Concord, MA. through January 20, 2024. Photo Courtesy Yorick Ensemble)
Musically, the score is as funny as the script, although Katie Iafolla and Aiden O'Neal each get a musical moment to shine a little brighter near the end of Act One and the start of Act Two, respectively.
Under the guidance of Music Director Elias Condakes, the band of musicians execute the score quite proficiently.
Staging by Michael Jay and Josh Telepman combined with the choreography by Sydney T. Grant allows the show to work at a breakneck pace but is key to its overall success.
Cleverly designed "retro" computer graphics are projected along the back wall which helps set up each scene as the family encounters multiple obstacles along their journey.
Overall the use of images worked quite well although, during one song about traveling along the trail, an 1840s "trail image" came complete with a vast array of telephone polls.
In addition to the elements, criminals, poisonous snakes and dangerous rivers, the family is also at high risk of dysentery as they make their journey down "THE TRAIL TO OREGON."
Each of the six performers take on multiple roles to help support the humor in each scene.
A drawback of the script would be that it feels "overwritten" at times with a few unnecessary moments of a scene or song making the show, overall, running about a half hour too long.
At the January 11th performance, there were moments where lines were either flubbed or characters dropped.
However, neither of the above criticisms deterred the audience in the slightest in their quest for ongoing laughter.
"THE TRAIL TO OREGON" continues in Concord, MA. through January 20th and, if you are seeking to travel along a path filled with silliness and preposterousness, this is a journey well worth taking.
Approximately two hours, 30 minutes with one intermission
Kevin T. Baldwin is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association (ATCA)
ABOUT THE SHOW
The irreverent musical "THE TRAIL TO OREGON" is an interactive parody based on the beloved 1971 video game and was originally produced by StarKid Productions.
"THE TRAIL TO OREGON" features music and lyrics by Jeff Blim and book by Nick Lang, Matt Lang, Brian Holden, and Jeff Blim.
Set in the 1840s, "THE TRAIL TO OREGON" follows an All-American, dysfunctional family as they set off from Independence, Missouri to head out west in search of a new life in Oregon.
Along the way, the clueless pioneers will encounter bandits, ford rivers, and hopefully avoid dysentery as they make their journey down "THE TRAIL TO OREGON."
It’s the greatest family vacation!
Inspired by the popular, retro computer game, "The Oregon Trail," this raucous, raunchy, musical spoof features six performers, 13 songs, multiple possible endings, and a hefty amount of audience participation.
With the live audience not only naming all the people in the wagon party, but also choosing which family members they'd like to see die, no two performances of "THE TRAIL TO OREGON" will ever be the same!
ABOUT YORICK ENSEMBLE
YORICK ENSEMBLE is an independent theatre company with a focus on building community through intimate productions. YORICK ENSEMBLE believes that great theatre comes not from big budgets, but from great people. As such, the focus is to produce works outside the realm of what one might find at a typical community theatre. YORICK ENSEMBLE seeks to make creative, engaging, and surprising work that will enrich actors and audiences alike. YORICK ENSEMBLE seeks to break the mold of tradition YORICK ENSEMBLE promotes, produces, and provides platforms for early-career artists while reimagining established works, nurturing new artists and the next generation of audience members. YORICK ENSEMBLE is an independent fringe theater company focused on building community through intimate productions.