The One: The Matrix Musical Parody is a show behind the times | Theater Review | Chicago Reader

The One: The Matrix Musical Parody is a show behind the times 

The sight gags score, but the music falls short in this spoof/homage of the Wachowskis’ sci-fi classic.

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click to enlarge The One: The Matrix Musical Parody

The One: The Matrix Musical Parody

Sam Begich

Ready to feel old? The Matrix—a movie that, upon its release at the cusp of the new millennium, was lauded by critics and fans as the harbinger of a new era of style and futuristic filmmaking—is now the stuff of retrospective think pieces and anniversary screenings. Book writer and lyricist Laura Marsh honors the film's 20-year milestone with this lovingly janky "D.I.Y. style" musical parody that riffs on and pays homage to the Wachowskis' iconic sci-fi action classic and all its green-lit, leather-duster-clad glory.

Chicago comedy clubs like the Annoyance and Second City have a long and proud history of producing lo-fi, low-budget musicals that marry sketch and improv sensibility with earwormy, keyboard-accompanied, better-than-they-need-to-be original tunes. At first glance, director C.J. Tuor's production at the Den would seem to be in a similar vein, especially when it comes to clever, scrappy visual effects, like flapper-dress fringe standing in for falling crypto-code letters, handheld Saran Wrap "glass" windows, and rolling-chair-assisted flying kicks.

But neither the voices here nor Jon Monteverde's score—a MIDI file-sounding, melodically nonexistent assemblage of loose parodies—really deliver on the musical requisite of musical parody. Bruce Phillips earns some legitimate laughs as Agent Smith, and Mike Gospel is a vocally strong outlier as Cypher, but the rest of the show's songs and gags wear thin well before the end of its 90-minute run time.  v

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