Review: ‘The King’s Proposal’ at Seattle Musical Theater
The King’s Proposal is a musical comedy currently playing at Seattle Musical Theater. Authored by Michael Govier and Curtis Williams, the show draws inspiration from the likes of Monty Python and Shakespearean comedy. It was written at a cabin in the woods and first produced in Chicago as a straight play before coming to the Emerald City for it’s musical debut.
First, the good bits. Jacob Hutchison as the evil King Edgar and Bo Mellinger as Rodger the Queen were both fantastic. They sang well and really embodied their parts. Krista Gibbon did a good job as the ghost of Hank, and the ghost scenes were excellent in general. There was also a particularly hilarious sequence in which the main character has to chase his spotlight across the stage.
Sadly, despite all that, The King’s Proposal never really clicked as a comedy. There simply wasn’t enough going on, which is a strange thing to say about a musical with at least five distinct subplots. The main problem was one that I’ve noticed is all too common in modern writing: Fourth Wall Syndrome.
Breaking the fourth wall – when a character somehow acknowledges that they are in a play – is so common that it’s become a crutch. There are long stretches in The King’s Proposal where fourth wall breaking is the only thing being done. That alone simply isn’t funny. Don’t get me wrong; it can be funny, but there has to be something else happening. For example: there is a scene where the Princess turns around and shushes the chorus as they are singing her backup. Normally, an actor would never acknowledge the chorus because they are a conceit of the show. Problem: by that point in Proposal, other characters have already broken the fourth wall multiple times. There’s no joke in this scene beyond acknowledging the chorus.
For an example of how to break the fourth wall in a way that actually works, see The Drowsy Chaperone, which Seattle Musical Theater also put on recently. In that show, the main character makes frequent comments to the audience about how the show is going. The difference is that in Chaperone, the fourth-wall-breaking and self references are part of a bigger joke. In The King’s Proposal, they’re about all there is. If more scenes had been like Guido chasing his spotlight and yelling at the operator, it would have been a lot better.
Now this doesn’t mean The King’s Proposal is unenjoyable. As I mentioned, there are a number of good scenes and some serious talent on display. As always, I encourage those who are interested to see it and decide for themselves. The show runs until April 7, Friday-Sunday. Tickets are available here.
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