Children’s musicals are always the hardest to review as you have to watch them as both children but you can help to view the show through your own mature eyes. I have reviewed numerous children’s productions (include leap day available at https://rhysreviews.com/2021/02/08/leap-day-a-new-childrens-musical-soundtrack-review/ which is also produced by beat by beat) and I find myself repeating the idea that as an adult the story is too simple but as a child, it is very entertaining. This is the same for the album recording of press start which follows spin-offs of famous video game character as they facilitate a musical concert to continue playing games. The characters in this musical are all based off of famous video game characters we have: Marco the plumber, speedy the hedgehog and spiked turtle, which doesn’t take a lot to figure out who they are clear references of. I wanted the character, Lady PAC Anne, to be a painfully obvious man in female drag as there is something about the pac man icon in a dress o find intriguing (I can understand why they did not do this, but a boy can hope!)
There are just 13 tracks in this album which means the whole collection is just 25 minutes long. The information available only suggests that this show when staged should only be approximately 45 minutes which makes it great for a younger audience. The opening track in the musical is “Press start” which is very clever as this is the process many gamers used to historically take to start playing any sort of game. This song plays around with very recognisable musical motifs (specifically Mario) to keep the idea of video games clear in the listener’s minds. I did not enjoy the fact that the song “putting on a show” appears three different times in three different parts! Each song is around 50 seconds and they could have easily combined all to be a song that would take its listeners on a musical journey. Alternatively, they could have fleshed out each of the songs to be complete songs as 45 seconds is way too short for an audience to fully submerge themselves into.
The creators of this show had thought about video games and kept this idea running throughout. We had the inclusion of classic(ish) characters, an opening number called press starts and songs told from the archetypes that often appear on such games. The “hero” song is very character-based with a repeating ostinato that will stay in your head for hours after you have stopped playing it. From an adults perspective, I could not understand why the heroes were shown to have an unnatural sense of self-love which did come across as slightly arrogant. I’m not sure if this was supposed to be a message about loving yourself but the character portrayed it a bit too far in my opinion. The “villain” song was not what I expected. This was an incredibly upbeat number that is filled with a lot of energy. While I was listening to it I even expected a big musical kick line as the music swelled in this way. We did not receive this big jazzy motif but it did have clear indications that this was the direction it was headed. My favourite line in this song was “it takes a lot of patience to be a villain” which appeared as the villains were talking about how they have to simply wait for the hero to reach the final boss battles before they can get involved. This was a very clever lyric from the team who had thought about the themes they are exploring. This show contained something that I have never seen in an album before and that is a whole “instrumental” number that is filled with tapping! The “little mushroom tap routine” I imagine is the big Awh moment from the show and I can imagine rows of tiny kids dressed in white with red poke-dots (to represent little mushrooms) which would honestly be the cutest thing ever!
Overall this is a fairly fun musical that many young children would be able to access and understand. The team had done a lot of research into the video game genre so that it is relatable to both a young band more mature audience. I would rate this musical 3 out of 5 stars!