Editors' pick

Super Claudio Bros., The New Video Game Musical

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Editorial Review

'Super Claudio Bros.' sends audience through time warp at Fringe Festival

From the first moment of "Super Claudio Bros.," any audience member who was alive in the mid-'80s is taken back, as if through a warp drive. The earworm theme music accompanies an animation of the Mario . . . um, we mean Claudio Brothers (we suspect there were licensing issues) as they save the Princess Tangerine. And thus ensues an endearing and ridiculous examination of the psyches of the most beloved video game characters of all time, which plays through July 25 at Studio's Mead Theater and then through Aug. 1 at the Warehouse.

The brothers Claudio (Steven Gregory Smith) and Luis (Sam Ludwig) battle an evil spiky platypus named Bruiser (Matthew A. Anderson) to rescue the Princess Tangerine (Gia Mora), protected by magical eggplants. Ludwig and Smith both have great voices, great timing and just the right combination of caricature and humanity. They are joined by Lauren Williams as the neglected Princess Fish, who wants to experience adventure and love and all that latter-day Disney Princess stuff, enough that she dons her own mustache and overalls.

Creators Marshall Pailet and Drew Fornarola have created a surprisingly polished, extraordinarily clever take on the Mario Brothers' world, drawing out every drop of angst the characters could feel -- Claudio's performance anxiety, rivalry between the brothers, even existential questions of whether they have free will or are being controlled by some unseen joystick. The dialogue is often sincere enough that this could masquerade as a children's musical, but it's not: some well-placed blue language and a clever song by the (perhaps not so evil?) platypus place this squarely in the adult category. This was written for those of us who remember the Mario Brothers from childhood, though there's no need to have been a shut-in geek to get all the jokes. Know what "1-Up" means? Do you remember the earworm theme music, which is used wonderfully throughout the score? You're good to go.

-- Fiona Zublin