Dubbed part game show, part live theater experience, the Old School Game Show only demands one thing from its audience: Don’t be an asshole.
It seems easy enough to follow this simple directive, but when there are coveted prizes on the line and real contestants can’t identify the variety show remake of Beyoncé’s “Drunk in Love,” it takes every ounce of your strength to not yell out the answer.
Therein lies the heart of this alt-theater musical extravaganza: Play along. Drink as much as you can handle. Don’t ruin it for everyone else.
In that way, Old School Game Show — which continued its rise to larger and larger rooms around Boston on Saturday (February 4), when it set up shop at the Wilbur Theatre — does well in going beyond its promise of delivering old school fun like Family Feud and into more interesting territory. That territory falls somewhere in the realm of bar trivia meets alt-variety show meets tongue-in-cheek criticism of what it means to be a game show in the first place.
Just as Price Is Right taught us about commerce, and Whose Line Is It Anyway? taught us about going with the flow, the Old School Game Show teaches us about acceptance. Every player is equally valued and welcomed.
“Game shows are one of the last true forms of democracy we have in this country,” says Mike D’Angelo, host, creator, executive producer, and star of the Old School Game Show in an aside that was as insightful as it was timely, given the country’s current political climate.
That’s not to say that everyone was a winner on Saturday in the Theatre District. There was undoubtedly one loser: The guy in the front row on the floor whom D’Angelo made an exaggerated point to kick out for heckling. Like actually kick out, not part of the performance — though it was met with enough fanfare that it could be considered a performance.
Still, there were certainly people that clearly came out on top at the Old School Game Show.
Plucked from the audience, a la Price is Right, the actual winner of Saturday’s show was able to sail through a few rounds of regular game play as part of the Red Team, then sweep the lightning round to scoop up some excellent prizes including tickets to the next performance of the show.
D’Angelo, the character, and D’Angelo, the creator of the show, were also winners. Like Alex Trebek, Pat Sajak, and Louie Anderson, D’Angelo shined brightest when he aimed at himself. In playing to themes about vanity versus business — giving rise to the host’s greatest dilemma, To Shave or Not Shave the Pornstache — D’Angelo’s performance and Old School Game Show are a fun exploration of the neuroses that develop when trying to revive the ceremonious traditions of game shows’ golden era. It’s straight-up R-rated family fun.
The game show’s Cubic Zirconia Dancers were winners, too. Whether death-dropping or bopping around on roller skates, their awesome dance moves, electric smiles, and overall energy, infectious and undeterred, lit up the stage. Ain’t no wrong answers gonna bring these ladies down.
Finally, the planned — or was it unplanned? — cameo by “The Phantom of the Wilbur” was the strangest yet most cutting critique of the slew of recent college-grad artists fumbling for employment in a STEM-focused economy. The cameo sat squarely out of place with the rest of the show, which even included a musical performance by Will Dailey. But, hey, every performer is accepted at Old School Game Show, whether you’re a winner or a loser. Just as long as you’re not an asshole.