Review: “Thrones! The Musical Parody” celebrates HBO’s megahit by skewering it


Thrones! The Musical Parody is exactly what it sounds like: an all-singing, all-dancing sendup of the HBO hit. Game of Thrones has been around for a while now, and has been parodied everywhere from Saturday Night Live to the Emmys to freaking Sesame Street and beyond. A traveling musical comedy fits right in.

Well, it’s not traveling yet. At the moment, it’s in the middle of an engagement at Chicago’s Apollo Theater, where I was able to see it this week. It’ll be there through November 13, whereafter the producers are eying a national tour.

Hopefully that gets off the ground, because Thrones! is a fun way to fill the gap between now and Season 7. Written and produced by the team behind 50 Shades! The Musical, which is also exactly what it sounds like, Thrones! takes gleeful aim at the show’s many quirks (paraphrased dialogue from Dany: “I am Daenerys Stormborn, Mother of Dragons, Godfather of Soul, Queen of Meereen, and Agent of SHIELD”), but there’s a lot of affection there, too. In fact, for my money, the best number—or at least the one I found myself humming afterwards—was the only one that plays it completely straight: an affecting a cappela tribute to Hodor’s final moments inevitably titled “Hold the Door.” It was enough to convince me that a straightforward Game of Thrones musical could work, assuming the audience had a week or two to spend in the theater.

But the bulk of the show is about laughs. The premise: a group of friends get together to watch the season premiere of Game of Thrones. One friend, horror or horrors, has never seen the show, so the friends take the only reasonable avenue available to them: they act it out for him. That means that six actors play upwards of 40 roles, switching in and out of wigs and accents, characters, and accents at breakneck speed. It’s a charming framework that lets the production have fun with props and costumes (the way the friends construct a functional Drogon out of random knick-knacks and an umbrella is particularly genius) and preserves a low-key, do-it-yourself energy that runs under the show’s 90 minutes.

At that length, Thrones! obviously can’t dig into every nook and cranny of the show’s story. (And the writers plan to add more material following Seasons 7 and 8.) There are a few songs that target big moments (e.g the above-mentioned “Hold the Door” or “Stabbin’,” a song all about the Red Wedding), but most give a bird’s eye view of the characters and their experiences. For example, Thrones! kicks off with a fun summary of Jon Snow’s time with his adopted brothers called “For the Watch,” while Jaime and Cersei get a twisted love balled titled “Fuck Everyone Who Isn’t Us.” The show may be at its funniest when it goes even wider, poking fun at GoT’s complexity with “These Are All the Names” or skewering fan wish fulfillment with “The Ending That We Want.” Naturally, that one makes for an excellent finale.

Not all the songs are slam dunks. Some rely too heavily on pop culture references for laughs, like one number about White Walkers that’s also a tribute to ’90s boy bands. It’s odd, since you’d figure that a show as massive as Game of Thrones would provide more than enough references to work with. Those kinds of songs seem destined to be hit-or-miss.

But there are more than enough great moments to justify enduring a few iffy ones. The Chicago cast was energetic and committed, the audience was having a good time (several turned up in cosplay), and like any good season of Game of Thrones, the show contains a few surprising (and violent) twists. As we head into the endgame, hype for Game of Thrones is at all-time high, and the people behind Thrones! The Musical Parody are just as excited as you. If you get a chance, come celebrate with them.