American cartoonist Charles M. Schulz famously said: “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” Writers Alan Golub and Laura Goldfather would agree, though they might well replace ‘a little’ with ‘a lot.’
Their new musical, The Chocolate Show!, which opened on Valentine’s Day, is a celebration of all things chocolate-related. It really takes its subject seriously. Inside the the theater, there’s a strong scent of chocolate candles and people are handing out delicious dark chocolate and sea salt bars with the programmes. On stage are giant chocolate boxes and red Valentine’s Day hearts piled high. A large banner picks out the show’s title in gold and red; it that resembles something out of a 1970s game show.
The Chocolate Show! is intended as a fun and family-friendly affair. It’s hosted by the reining World Queen of the Cocoa Bean, Cookie Conwell (Emily McNamara) a bubbly blonde with an unhealthy obsession with chocolate. It is her duty to crown her successor, who will work to teach people about chocolate awareness and make the world a better place.
The man part of the show takes the form of a pageant, which is broken up into three parts: the talent show, the catwalk and the all-important final question. Willing audience members are pulled on stage to paint with chocolate, strut their stuff and answer questions about the history of chocolate. It is then up to Cookie to decide which of these lucky participants takes home the chocolate crown.
While the pageant is adorable (mainly because several young children are brought up on stage to compete), it’s the songs and secondary scenes which are the most enjoyable. “Chocoholics Anonymous”, performed by Laura D’Andre, is a ballad sung by a woman who is a self-proclaimed chocolate addict. “Death by Chocolate”, performed by Andrew Pandaleon and James Patterson, is also cute and “The New Wine”, performed by Talene Monahon and Petterson, takes the form of a hilarious duet. These four also perform a very funny segment about the history of chocolate, from prehistoric times to the 1960s.
While the songs are funny and catchy enough and the cast are clearly talented, the show itself is pretty corny in places and somewhat gaudy in tone. Resembling a combination of a local beauty pageant, a slapstick comedy sketch show and a children’s concert, it’s fairly cringe-worthy in some regards, particularly the Willy Wonka-esque costumes, all brown and bright yellow, covered in sequins. The men wear bowties and bowler hats while the women wear Maria von Trappe-like dresses with polka dots; Cookie’s pageant dresses look like melting chocolate cake, with ruffles as frosting.
There are some enjoyable moments – and there’s free chocolate, which can’t be bad – but this one is definitely more for the kids than for the grown-ups.