What is Trail to Oregon?

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Trail to Oregon is as you can probably guess a play on the classic video game ‘Oregon Trail’ the seminal edutainment classroom game where the player leads their family across the United states on a wagon to reach, well Oregon. The idea is to get in the mind-set of the original settlers, at least for those inside the united states. Those of us outside, probably only know the game through pop culture like this musical from Starkid productions.

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Ok first things first lets deal with the rogue mutated Bison in the room and ask is this better or worse than last years ‘Ani’. Well for a start off it’s a proper musical and unlike last time it seems the cast genuinely have affection for the source material this time. Thus while I don’t think the show is their best the whole thing is defiantly a lot better, whilst still of course being available for free on youtube.

The show stars a family, making do after an act of God took their barn, acquiring a wagon with a floor window at a reasonable price they set off avoiding the Bandit King and dysentery to try and make it in one piece. Now you might notice how I am avoiding naming any of the main family and that is because taking a cue from the game on which it is based the audience is allowed to name the family. This kind of audience participation leads to of course some humorous, and a lot of crass, names for the main cast but unfortunately this seems to be the end of the audience involvement except for a few leans, winks, nods and a Carlton style dash through the audience this is the end of the audience participation. And just like how they can’t quite live up to Alfonso Riberio the idea of doing an audience participation leads to unfortunate similarities, at least in my own mind whilst I was trying to watch, with ‘The Gamers: Live’ Now I know they are very different things and they weren’t going for the levels of either of these two but there did seem the notion that if you were going to give it a go, give it a proper go rather than just giving the cast some silly names to say throughout the play.

The cast is fairly small, in fact I am fairly certain that the actual actors come to the grand total of six, with five given over to the family, one to the Bandit King and everyone pulling double duty at least once. The top billing has to go to Jeff Blim as the father of the family who despite pulling a good turn can’t help but remind you why he should be cast as the Joker which is perhaps not what he was going for, but what you gonna do?

Though there isn’t much of a costume change for these six they do manage to change character quite well so you are never left questioning who they are playing at the moment. Joey Richter probably should get the praise for this with the most character changes and often only given a new hat for each role. Luckily with careful planning the characters never end up talking to themselves, though I’m not sure if this is a good thing or not.

Of course the big question will probably be about the songs and they’re not bad with top place probably going to ‘speed run’ and then the opening title. Like the show they do the job and entertain you as it ploughs along but I don’t think you will be humming too many on the taxi ride on the way home.

For those here for the game, you won’t be disappointed with call outs to the breakability of the wagon and the Bison hunting you have to undertake to have enough food to survive. For those here for Starkid, you also won’t be disappointed, the cast are all old hands at this and do the job well. The level of humour is right where you would expect and there is even a healthy round of God bashing which I think we haven’t seen since science killed God way back in the far distant future.

The show is available on youtube with some of the numerous endings that the audience could vote upon and at around the two hour mark, there are worse ways to waste your time. Though in truth about the only difference with the endings seem to be a vote for who gets a solo at the end though it is nice to see practical effects still in use.

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