The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

The University of Chicago’s Independent Student Newspaper since 1892

Chicago Maroon

In Boop! The Musical, a Nostalgic Story Leaps to the Stage

Although its plot and songs could use direction, Boop! The Musical delivers visual delight and old-timey music for a nostalgic, family-friendly audience.
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Mark Seliger
Jasmine Amy Rogers stuns as Boop in the original musical “Boop!”

Boop! The Musical is an exciting original production currently running its pre-Broadway tryouts, one premiere location being Chicago. It brings the iconic Betty Boop cartoon character to life in a way that is both nostalgic and refreshing. This exciting production focuses heavily on costume and scenic elements, which, although lacking in plot, comes as a delightful surprise.

Boop! follows our ingenue Betty Boop, the 1930s cartoon character portrayed here by Jasmine Amy Rogers, as she yearns to leave the cold, gray, two-dimensional world of her old-timey cartoon. Her fame and success have gotten unbearable. Boop begs her inventor grandpa, “Gramps” (Stephen DeRosa), to send her to the modern and colorful 3D universe. Gramps refuses, but Boop takes his interdimensional machine to the present day. At the center of New York Comic Con, she meets Trisha, played by Angelica Hale, a Betty Boop enthusiast. Together, alongside Trisha’s brother and Boop’s love interest Dwayne (Ainsley Anthony Melham), they explore the jazzy liveliness of New York.

The first act is fun, light, and exciting, but the second act is where things take a turn for the worse. The world finds out about Boop’s true identity, and she begins to work with a mayoral candidate, Raymond Demarest, who is exposed as a misogynist. Boop quits her position and urges Trisha’s adoptive mother, Carol Evans, to run for mayor. The show ends with an extravagant number about love, family, and the relationships Boop has made, but the story feels rushed. It lacks depth and impact, giving it the impression of having been written by a committee of people rather than an individual with a thematic goal, especially since the production spends so much time introducing characters without fully developing their stories. We barely know anything about mayoral candidate Carol Evans and her political views, and we learn nothing about Trisha besides the fact that she’s an insecure orphan. We never grow to love any of them. Additionally, the musical’s romantic B plot including Gramps and a woman from the real world takes over multiple songs. These moments add unnecessary complexity without much payoff. The narrative detours disrupt the flow of the main story and detract from the overall cohesion of the production.

The production’s design is striking. The transition from black and white while in the two-dimensional world to color when entering the modern world is executed with great finesse.  Black-and-white flattened projections, inspired by the 1930s Betty Boop cartoons, create a magical effect that presents as uncanny and paper-like. The set serves as a testament to the dedication of the creative vision behind the show and greatly enhances the worldbuilding. Another unique element in this musical was the use of a puppeteer for Betty’s dog, which is a clever solution to the challenge of having animals on stage. The puppeteering was skillfully done, adding a whimsical quality to the production.

Musically, the show is a delight, especially for fans of jazz. The tunes are reminiscent of classic jazz standards, echoing the sounds of old Broadway musicals. These numbers are not only pleasing to the ear but could easily stand alone outside the context of the show; however, the lyrics are overly direct and lack subtlety. Musical theater lyricism should be poetic and witty, not just an opportunity for characters to speak their day-to-day dialogue in song. The songs lacked purpose. Furthermore, a greater emphasis on the jazz qualities in the actors’ voices might have made for a more immersive experience.

As Betty Boop, Jasmine Amy Rogers is nothing short of remarkable. Following her performance as Gretchen Wieners in the musical adaptation of Mean Girls, Jasmine demonstrates her prowess as a character actress. Her interpretation of Betty is finely tuned, maintaining the character’s iconic mannerisms, from her barely bouncing shoulders to her bright, bubbly voice. Her singing in particular is a highlight of the show, bringing Betty’s character to life with vibrancy and charm. Her star power alone lifts this production to another level.

Despite its issues, the musical has an undeniable charm. Its endearing qualities make it a lovable production for a wide audience. While it may not boast a riveting plot, the show captures the essence of Betty Boop and transports audiences into her whimsical world, making it a worthwhile experience for those who appreciate the blend of classic animation and stage performance.

“Boop! The Musical” played at the CIBC Theatre from November 19-December 24, 2023.

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