Tabletop (the musical)

mb stage productions, llc · Ages 12+ · United States of America

family friendly world premiere
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June 17, 2019 certified reviewer

What I liked

I absolutely wanted to play D&D with the characters in the show, who felt like convincing echoes of many nerds I’ve known in real life. The cast is generally endearing and on point in their portrayal of the imaginative players each grappling with their own issues. Loic Suberville is especially spot-on in his portrayal of the angsty/passionate Luke, down to nuances of body language like the brooding posture and impatient leg twitch. I have known that person, multiple times.

Benaglio and Sundman’s book is careful to tie in-game stakes to the real-world needs and wants of the characters to whom we’ve become attached. We’re never just watching in-game adventuring, entertaining as it is; there’s always a connection to what’s going on with the lives of the players.

Sundman’s excellent score blends a contemporary musical idiom with some of the modal harmonies and compound meter we associate with medieval folk music. A standout number for me was an unexpected revelation from one seemingly stoic character. (I’m avoiding spoilers so will leave it at that.)

There was real chemistry and camaraderie among the cast, which enabled them to convincingly portray the complex relationships that emerge in extended role-playing collaboration.

What I didn't like

This was polished for a workshop, but still a workshop; at over two hours’ length, the show can naturally benefit from some tightening.

Music didn’t always serve clear story function. Songs sometimes commented on events after the fact, rather than being the delivery medium for important decisions or action. The story sometimes felt suspended during those moments of reverie.

Despite the generally satisfying character arc resolutions, I’m not sure what the show’s ultimate message was about the value of tabletop RPGs. Is D&D enabling? Destructively addictive? Presumably both, but I wanted someone in the show to voice (or sing) that conclusion.

My overall impression

A show that successfully blends D&D culture homage with engaging character arcs and a great score, exploring the sometimes-enabling, sometimes-concerning relationship between RPG enthusiasts and their passion.

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