Fantasy video game musical makes its U.S. premier at The Loft Theatre

Photo: Actors for the show Travis Mitchell, Rachel Flynn, Max Crumm, and Abby Church

By Josher Lumpkin

So, I have to start off this review by stating for the public record that, while I have a fond appreciation of the theatre, I am by no means an expert. However, I am extremely well-versed in “geek” culture as it applies to video games, cosplay, and fantasy. It is through that lens which I have composed this review of Legendale, a new musical created by Andrea Daly and Jeff Bienstock which is showing most nights between now and October 1st at The Loft Theatre downtown.

Legendale is the story of a lonely gamer named Andy (played by Max Crumm). Stuck in a mindless programmer job he hates, and with no prospects for love on the horizon, Andy finds escapism by logging on to his favorite massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Legendale. In this fantasy world, Andy is a sword-wielding hero. Unlike his life outside of the game, in Legendale, Andy actually has friends and is good at something.

When Paul Jansen (Jesse Sharp), CEO of Jansen Games, the fictional company who developed Legendale, announces a new in-game tournament, Andy jumps at the opportunity for a chance at greatness. The challenge: become the first character in the game to reach 1000 points. Points are gained by killing other players’ avatars. Conversely, when a player’s avatar is killed, that player loses points.

Meanwhile, at work, Andy is overloaded with tedious programming tasks that his overbearing boss is all too eager to dole out. With all the extra work around, the company brings in Beth (Rachel Flynn), a temp tasked with managing the office. Of course, Andy and Beth are immediately attracted to each other, though both characters are so painfully awkward, they don’t know how to approach their mutual crush.

As Andy attempts to register a new avatar to create a character for the Legendale tournament, his boss pulls him away for some work. When Andy gets back to his desk, all of the good Legendale characters are taken, and he is stuck taking on the role of the lowly milkmaid (Abby Church) —the most pathetic character in the game.

Legendale is one-part coming of age romantic comedy and one-part fantasy action bonanza with a sprinkling of intrigue to keep things interesting. The musical takes place half-IRL and half-in-game. The in-game scenes were this writer’s favorite. During these parts, Andy’s computer monitor display is projected onto the stage, showing the Legendale game interface, complete with a chat window, inventory, and all the other features anyone who’s ever played World of Warcraft would recognize. This bit of multimedia made for a nice detail.

The fantasy costumes in Legendale are amazing and alone are worth the trip to the theater to see. Designed by Anna Juul Holm and Lotte Martine Blichfeldt for the world premiere in Denmark, all of these costumes were incredible, though my favorites were the ones that looked inspired by The Legend of Zelda video games. The costumes characters wear in the real world were designed by Dayton’s own Ayn Kaethchen Wood.

Michael Schweikardt’s sets are also incredible. Built on a revolving stage so that the scenes can easily be changed, the floor and backdrop are made up of hexagons akin to spaces in a video or board game. Certainly a clever detail that was not lost on me.

The musical numbers in Legendale are just fine, so far as I could tell. They seemed to me like standard musical fare. Enough to be stuck in your head in the drink line at intermission, but not reinventing the wheel. They were catchy enough.

Opening night at The Loft Theatre was clean and comfortable. The intimate setting made for an exciting place to watch a show like Legendale. In such close quarters, one could appreciate the close views of the costumes and performers. Max Crumm, Rachel Flynn, and Travis Mitchell all gave delightful performances, however the charming Abby Church as milkmaid Zelayna stole the show, in my opinion. Church’s quirky, high-energy performance can easily be likened to Ellie Kemper as Kimmy Schmidt or Erin in The Office.

Although Legendale will be showing the entire month of September, a highlight of the production might be available on Saturday, September 16. That night, The Loft Theatre opens its doors early for Young Professionals Board Game Night with pre-show board gaming, tacos, margaritas, and beer.

Legendale’s storyline and ending probably won’t blow anybody’s mind, but with its cool costumes and sets, its unique premise for a musical, and its pleasant connection to a geeky, pop culture aesthetic, it certainly makes for a fun night out at the theatre.

Legendale is showing at The Loft Theatre, 126 North Main Street, in Dayton until October 1. For more information, please call (937) 228-7591 or visit https://humanracetheatre.org/shows/active-shows/legendale.

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Josher Lumpkin
Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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