Theater review by Raven Snook
Keith Harrison and Laura Schein's over-the-top musical comedy Emojiland aims for 🤣but inspires 🙂at best. Inside a smartphone, bedazzled diva Princess (Lesli Margherita) and her digital denizens are excited to greet their annual update. But two new arrivals, Prince (Josh Lamon) and Nerd Face (George Abud), disrupt their superficially happy texistence, sparking romantic and societal crises.
A hit at the 2018 New York Musical Festival (R.I.P.), the show has gotten a major cast upgrade. Under Thomas Caruso's broad direction, an impressive roster of Broadway favorites give their all to the middling material. Margherita and Lamon, who have been with the project from the beginning, lean into camp as a pair of narcissistic tyrants who rap and belt with abandon. Abud's Nerd Face is an affable underdog who nails pop power ballads while saving the cyberworld and wooing Smize (cowriter Schein). As the dangerously depressive Skull, Lucas Steele is a goth dreamboat who croons Radiohead-style odes to death. Disappointingly, however, the brilliant Ann Harada is wasted as Pile of Poo; her single scene is a real number two.
With 16 musical numbers, dozens of characters, three main plot lines (including a heavy-handed political one about building a firewall) and a running time of well over two hours, Emojiland is a case of more-is-way-too-much—
Duke on 42nd Street (Off Broadway). Book, music and lyrics by Keith Harrison and Laura Schein. Directed by Thomas Caruso. With ensemble cast. Running time: 2hrs 20mins. One intermission.