By Sam Pitt-Stoller; Directed by Myla Pitt
Part of the 2014 New York International Fringe Festival
Off Off Broadway, New Musical
Runs through 8.24.14
Theatre 80, 80 St. Marks Place
by Greg Solomon on 8.12.14
BOTTOM LINE: This musical tells a potential story of what happens after the events of the Mario video game series end.
Jump Man takes places two decades after the events of the iconic Mario Brothers video game series. In a small neighborhood in Brooklyn, people are disappearing and the residents turn to the Mario Brothers to save the day (only people in this neighborhood and in Japan are aware that the brothers are real). Mario (the multi-talented Jeff Essex) is a bit of a selfish asshole, as made clear in a song by that title which borrows quite a bit from "Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist" from Avenue Q. He is now married to Princess Peach (the affable Rachel Oyama) and has two children. Peach has gone on to be Secretary of State, but Mario still works at his plumbing shop with his brother Luigi (the frequently adorable Benny Oyama) and their sidekick Toad (Luke Schwartz), whose arms could just be the stars of the show.
Naturally everyone assumes that Bowser (Erik DeCicco) must have returned from the dead to be beyond the kidnappings. Nothing is as it seems in the convoluted plot that follows, however, as these characters’ archetypes are turned on their heads.
Sam Pitt-Stoller has written the book, music and lyrics for this piece and he points out in his notes about the show that Mario was such an iconic character because the player was able to imagine Mario’s backstory. This version of Mario is unquestionably his, which may prove amusing to some but also could appear as irreverent to others. As an example, at one juncture Bowser asks Luigi why he is single. When Luigi comes out as being gay, Bowser’s reaction is "Oh me too. Do you want to do sex things some time?" This could be equally hysterical or offensive depending on one’s sensibilities.
The cast and crew attack the material with gusto and the reaction from the theatre was in equal parts joy and shock. Maybe not for everyone, but for those who would enjoy a subversion of the heroes of their youth, Jump Man could be a fun night out.
(Jump Man plays at Theatre 80, 80 St. Marks Place, through August 24, 2014. Remaining performances are Wednedsay 8/13 at 5:15PM; Saturday 8/16 at 7PM; Tuesday 8/19 at 8PM (just added!); and Sunday 8/24 at 6PM. Tickets are $18 and are available at fringenyc.org.)