Quest for the West: Adventures on the Oregon Trail!
nytheatre.com review by David Gordon
August 17, 2012
I suggested fording the river but the audience voted otherwise, and the results were dire. But I was giddy when tragedy befell the poor travelers on stage as their wagon capsized, their ammo ruined, and their spare wagon tongue swept away at sea. After all, killing defenseless would-be settlers is the #1 reason I spent so many hours in front of my computer playing The Oregon Trail, and that wave of nostalgia is why us millennials will respond so highly to the terribly fun musical Quest for the West: Adventures on the Oregon Trail.
Featuring a libretto by Julie Congress, Ryan Emmons (who also directed), Zachary Fithian, and Jen Neads, and songs by Rebecca Greenstein and Danny Tieger, the interactive stage show follows a wagon train party, led by brother and sister Jebediah and Hope (the hard-working and thoroughly charming John Bambery and Haley Greenstein), as they head out to Oregon to start a new life. On the way, they're forced to contend with everything from patches of prickly pears, broken bones, death, and yes, even budding love, between Hope and the dopey character played by Scott Raymond Johnson.
Quest's unique charm comes from the interaction. Delightful narrator Maxwell Schneller passes around slips of paper for us to suggest names for two of the characters (alas, my suggestion, Jehosephat Kanyewest Carmichael, was not picked); audience response guides how fast our settlers travel (slow, steady, grueling), and whether to cross the river via ferry, caulk it, or ford it. We even get to hunt, via throwing plastic balls on stage.
In the end, I'm not sure whether or not they reach Oregon really matters (both the book and score are charming, but have that secondary feeling), though in my years playing the game (and I still play it on my iPhone), it didn't matter either; I cared much more about my God-like status as creator/destroyer. By looking around at the screaming audience, I was not alone.
You won't die of dysentery, but you'll have a grand time.