March 8, 2020
It may not be your next transcendent art experience, but it sure was all of the gaudy glamour that Broadway warrants. With rainbow color, laser bright lights, dance-breaks, and a love story thrown in, Emojiland surprised me with a hilariously entertaining show.
Taking place on the inside of the iPhone, the musical follows characters that are Emojis: Construction Worker, Police Officer, Smiling Face with Smiling Eyes (Smize), Smiling Face with Sunglasses (Sunny), Kissy Face, Skull, Princess, and Watch Guard. The set is designed of white boxes which transform based on various projections. Sometimes they take on the form of tropical apartment buildings, sometimes they light up into bright red or moody blue. Though the laser projections and mood setting tones can feel superfluous, it does its diligence by driving home the point of technology’s ability to influence environment.
The opening number introduces the audience to characters who smile, skip, and prance about their love of life, and how happy they are to live it. From the first number of this off Broadway production, directed by Thomas Caruso, I was left thinking “oh no, what have I just gotten myself into?”.
However, at the turn of the second song, the storyline begins to develop, and the longer the musical went on, the more it grew on me. Smize, the emoji programmed to love everything and never be sad, begs to cry and feels depressed. Sunny, the emoji who should be the shining one of the group, is the bully. What the emojis are programed to be on the outside, is the opposite of what they feel on the inside. Though it isn’t solely about self-examination, the musical makes subtly effective attempts at unmasking the overly positive portrayal of the self on media screens vs the underwhelming reality of “real life”.
The plot revolves around an update which brings new emojis into Emojiland. When the update introduces Nerdy Face, an overly smart all-knowing character, to Skull (an emoji who is obsessed with becoming death itself), he is manipulated into created a virus which un-programs emojis forever. With this imminent threat, Emoji’s must figure out how to save their home town. There are Trump wall-building parallels and perils, Lesbian love stories, and heterosexual affairs. There is also plenty of subpar dancing, and mediocre acting (though the vocals remained quite impressive). This musical really does have it all. I’ll spare you the ending, though ever so predictable, Emojiland was surprisingly hilariously and nothing if not an entertaining number.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY — Mia Silvestri