A nameless 19th-century family attempt to relocate from Missouri to Oregon. Their wagon breaks down, some buffalo are shot, and their daughter gets kidnapped by a bandit. At the end, one of the family dies. Not the strongest concept for a musical, yet The Trail To Oregon! exists.
Based on a '70s computer game, the show premiered in Chicago for 24 performances. And despite energy and exuberance from Gone Rogue Productions, this version is no less irrelevant. Because in an effort to pay homage to the source material, The Trail to Oregon! incorporates numerous asinine elements that render the production confusing and unintelligible.
The audience get to pick the names of the characters. They also get to choose who dies at the end. Apart from these, there are no other aspects of immersive theatre in the show. So why include them in the first place – what purpose do they serve? Equally perplexing is the book itself, a narrative that tries to be both poignant and farcical. It achieves neither.
Given the source material, director Phoebe Alicia Armstrong carves out a watchable show that capitalises on being anything but subtle. The choreography is simple and the acting superficial, but the vocals are competent, and the harmonised chorus numbers well delivered. Bella Norris provides light comic relief and Josh Vaastra’s voice carries the solos.
Fundamentally, The Trail to Oregon! is neither clever nor shocking enough to have any lasting impact. Even the writers have given up by the conclusion.