The Shadow of the Master: A Kung Fu Musical Sequel | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Shadow of the Master: A Kung Fu Musical Sequel

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The Shadwo Of The Master: A Kung Fu Musical Sequel, Sulacco Productions, at WNEP Theater. Casting a musical without regard to singing ability and writing one with merely functional songs are perplexing choices. But then nothing about this show, directed and cowritten by Fred Mowery with music by Stephanie McCullough, makes much sense. Why bother with stage combat if you're going to do it perfunctorily, in a tiny space that would frustrate a contortionist Jackie Chan? Why belabor a hyperbolic plot that veers between cliche and incoherence? Though the Sulacco ensemble is reasonably appealing at times, this musical hasn't come together in conception or execution.

In the sequel to Sulacco's The True Deadliest Game of Death, Dread Lord Andrew Vaile seeks to assemble the Jinx, an Aztec artifact in five pieces that for some reason will destroy human speech. Our heroes are sent to stop him, leading to lots of lackluster fight scenes, monotone "singing," and flat or overdone portrayals (though cowriter Matt Larsen is excellent--onstage). The jokes are corny at best; the story unfolds with a dull, clumsy intricacy; and the costumes, which might have helped suspend disbelief, are haphazard and slight. Understudies Michael Kuya and Dave Lykins played two of the leads the night I attended, which may have thrown things off. But they actually acquitted themselves better than many: overall this show needs a lot more work.

--Brian Nemtusak

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