If aliens landed on Earth, how would you explain our obsession with Game of Thrones? It’s all so absurd. So extreme! And totally chock full of our most primal fears and desires. So, how about kicking off with a little hair metal?
Yes, Shame of Thrones: The Rock Musical—An Unauthorized Parody is real, and you may want to bone up for the inevitable invasion, or just to get hyped for the HBO series’ final season next summer.
The unauthorized parody, previously seen in L.A. and San Francisco under the title Game of Thrones: The Rock Musical, is currently running off-Broadway at The Theater Center through Dec. 30.
Shame of Thrones: The Rock Musical now comes with the qualifier, “This production is independently operated by GOT The Musical, LLC. It is not sponsored, endorsed or affiliated with HBO or anyone associated with Game of Thrones.”
As for that delicate legal-ese, a show spokesperson said: "The producers of SOT wanted to make it clear to HBO and to the general public that the show is a parody. Plus it's just a funnier title for a parody."
Which leaves, for the GoT fan, some important questions: How could the enormity of Westeros possibly fit into an intimate upstairs theater? Why does everything have to become a rock musical? How much simulated sex in every position would such a show entail? (To answer that last one, a whole lot—which is just enough.)
When you think about it, there really is no better way to send up George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic than with a rock score, Monty Python-style antics, and a lot of aggressive wigs. (Though Ned Stark’s righteous curls are all natural, courtesy of Milo Shearer.)
The musical takes us through a basic recap of Season 1, in which Daenerys weds Khal Drogo, the Starks wind up at war with the Lannisters, and everyone wants that ineffectual bastard Jon Snow to just “Shut! The fuck! Up!” (Ah, those were simpler times.)
Die-hard fans with in-depth knowledge of all six seasons will be rewarded with jokes that may fly over the heads of mere casual observers. (Sansa in reply to Arya’s invitation to a rock show: “Kings of Theon? Boo, they reek.”)
While SoT aims to appeal even to those who’ve never gone near the Seven Kingdoms, at the performance I attended, I overheard a man ordering a double Merlot at intermission, “My wife needs it; she’s a little lost.” Rest assured, she seemed to be having a blast nonetheless. (It should be noted that there are 10:30 p.m. weekend performances billed as “After Dark TV MA Fun!” and Sunday “Red Wedding” matinees with half-priced Bloody Marys.)
The evening’s tone is set before the show even begins: Hodor (scene stealer Ryan Pifher) offers his refrain at the theater entrance (get it?), and the “silence your cellphones” announcement ends with a mock patron being “shame” marched down the aisle by Septa Unella when his device goes off. Martin (played by Jay Stephenson) is our narrator, dangerously on the brink of dying without finishing the final books in A Song of Ice and Fire, on which GoT is based (at one point Mr. Martin flatlines on the Iron Throne, but quickly resurrects himself).
We first meet the Starks in a carefree “it’s good to be us” number, a sentiment we know lasts for the first hot second of the story before the lives of the entire clan go to shit. Eddard “Ned” Stark, as we’ve established, has the bearing of a rock god, though this Catelyn (Delilah Kujala) seems to be the one in charge (neither one can pronounce the other’s name).
As for their brood, an ingratiating Sansa’s signature dance move is the robot (fitting) and Arya’s a petulant adolescent trying on a new persona with every scene, from Punky Brewster in a scrunchie to pale-faced goth (as her mother says: “Right now, a girl feels like no one”). After his shove from the tower by a flushed Jaime Lannister, Bran is mostly carried around as an actual dummy. Robb (Jeff Bratz) is still the family golden boy (sob) and like most of us, no one really knows who Rickon is.
When the Lannisters visit Winterfell with King Robert Baratheon (also played by Pifher), fave brother-sister duo Jaime (Peter Berube) and Cersei (Erin Stegeman, also part of the songwriting team) are all over each other, naturally (“It’s like fucking myself!” comes a wail from under their sheet of incest).
Robert asks Ned to be Hand of the King (Ned: “I accept your hand job”), and Sansa falls hard for Joffrey (Randy Wade Kelly) who’s busy snapping douchey selfies. And let’s hope Tyrion (Drew Boudreau) is right about his big number, “You Can’t Kill Me,” which cites Peter Dinklage’s two Emmys for the role as collateral.
Meanwhile, Jon Snow’s self-imposed exile to the Wall provides ample opportunity for contemporary parallels we don’t draw nearly enough. As the Night’s Watch Lord Commander (Ace Marrero, who doubles as Khal Drogo and serves as a producer) dons a red cap, Jon asks if he really thinks a giant wall is the solution to their problems. (Also cue a few well-earned “bend the knee” jokes—fortunately, they don’t take this easy road too far.)
Kudos to the show for lampooning the most troubling aspect of the first season, the sale of Daenerys (Mandie Hittleman) to Khal Drogo, whose relationship shifts from sexual predation to an enduring love story. Let’s just say Dany eventually gets the upper hand... er, fist.
Though hardly breaking new ground in the tradition of more polished spoofs like Spamalot or Forbidden Broadway, the production’s amateur aesthetic and scale are a fitting foil to the lavishness of the original series. The serviceable music numbers (score is by Stegeman and Peter Frintrup, the book and lyrics by Steven Christopher Parker and Steven Brandon) paint in broad plot strokes, and come packed with gaffes. The direction, also by Parker, has this game-for-anything cast winking through meta moments while relaying what is still a pretty complex story.
A shared love for HBO’s juggernaut series may be the only thing uniting much of the country at this point—at least until the finale next year. There is also a certain nostalgic pleasure in looking back to the first season, whose drama feels almost quaint as the Great War approaches.
So bravo to Shame of Thrones, with all its synthetic hair, embodied memes, and relentless stream of dirty jokes, for making a problematic favorite a little less problematic to enjoy.
Shame of Thrones: The Rock Musical—An Unauthorized Parody is at the Theater Center, 1627 Broadway, NYC, until Dec. 30. Book tickets here.