Here We Go! Super Kart: A Review

Saskia Leach attends MTS's annual Variations.

It’s that time of year again when MTS put on their ‘Variations’ production, a unique show written, crewed, and performed entirely by MTS first-timers. This year, the task fell to Finley Hodges, Jamie O’Connor, and Gabriella Mulé, and they brought us Super Kart: The Musical. Based on the world-famous Mario Kart series, it features everyone’s favourite characters and boasts a script packed to the brim with Super Mario references. Finley Hodges’s clever writing ensured that even those without an in-depth knowledge of the Nintendo world could appreciate the numerous allusions to the franchise. I came out of the show wondering whether I had actually ever hit someone with a green shell, and why poor Blue Toad bore the brunt of so much mockery – I always played as her!

Jamie O’Connor was the show’s musical director, and wrote and composed Princess Peach’s solo number – Something There for Me – as if the crew didn’t have enough material to write already! This was a nice touch, and something I’ve not seen before in Variations. Had the programme not acknowledged that this was an entirely original song, I would not have noticed otherwise.

Gabriella Mulé should be applauded for her innovative choreography. I must admit, when MTS announced the Super Mario concept, I was not sure if and how this would translate into a piece of musical theatre. But Mulé’s choreography of the Super Kart races was clear and slick. They conveyed the narrative of the races distinctly, and her use of a featured dancer (Milly Marshall) to embody the use of item boxes was a stroke of genius – and provided multiple points of humour.

The utilisation of a projector to transform the SU into the elaborate setting of Mushroom World was a very smart choice considering the production’s low budget. However, greater use certainly could have been made of this, particularly considering the lack of any fixed set pieces. The scene outside Bowser’s Castle felt notably bare, and its location was initially unclear. Our immersion into Mushroom World was aided by the playing of the Super Mario Brothers theme tune while the audience was waiting for the performance to begin. This would have been even more effective if the music played before the show was solely from Super Mario. Similarly, the idea to use painted cardboard boxes as the karts was a good one and did the job well. However, the fact they weren’t also painted round the sides made the fact they were cardboard boxes too obvious for my liking.

The SU is a vast performance space and it did feel a little bare. A band would have helped to fill this ample area, and its presence was sorely missed. Nevertheless, the pre-recorded tracks used were expertly arranged by Daniel Looseley. They did not once detract from the performers’ vocals, as is sometimes the case with a live band.

However, what the production lacked in set was made up for in costume. Each character donned their archetypal dress, and was easily identifiable from the moment they stepped on stage, although I feel an opportunity was missed makeup-wise for Mario, Luigi, and Wario to not adorn their iconic moustaches. Well done to Milly Marshall (Toadette) for dancing with a large mushroom on her head, and mastering the multitude of item cards and locations to run to in the race sequences. 

Susana Sánchez was our Mario and showcased strong vocals throughout. Bragging that he would ease to victory against Bowser in the Special Cup, she deftly captured Mario’s arrogance and cocksureness. Nerves always come into play on opening night, but I would have liked greater energy during the show’s pivotal moments, notably in Luigi’s crash and the night at Koopa’s Bar.

Lolly Hayes gave a standout performance as Bowser, the villain of the show. Her solo number, My Name, was a real highlight, in which her belt was particularly impressive. Her high energy and dedication to characterisation was unyielding, and worked in harmony with each other to climax in the fight with Mario. I also enjoyed Emily Redmond as Luigi a great deal. Her comedic dancing at Koopa’s Bar particularly ticked me, as did Milly Marshall’s Toadette in Outta Here. My eyes were often drawn to these three during group numbers.

As if Sofia Goss-Vera Alba didn’t have enough to learn in 6 weeks as Princess Peach, she also undertook the task of makeup and costume. Her rendition of Something There for Me was pleasing to the ear, and while I would have liked to have seen more passion in I’d Do Anything for Love (But I Won’t Do That), her costuming was what brought Mushroom World most vividly to life. Caitlin Wickens also doubled up as a member of cast and crew, adopting the roles of Yoshi and Stage Manager. Her unrequited love for Mario provided some of the most humorous moments of the show, although her repositioning of her microphone was at times distracting.

Neha Bhayani played Lakitu, commentator of the races, and was at her best in the show’s closing number, The Ad-Dressing of Karts (The Ad-Dressing of Cats rewritten). While there were a few dialogue fumbles, her lovely vibrato brought the show to an exultant close. Megan Allen as Princess Daisy and Stephanie Cabrera as Wario served as Luigi’s girlfriend and Mario’s spy respectively. Their contrasting devoted and scheming personas proved integral to the plot, although at times I did struggle to hear them. A general note to the cast would be to watch vocal speed and diction. The large space of the SU makes it very easy for lines to get ‘lost’, and at times spoken dialogue was difficult to decipher.

As with any production’s opening night, there are always technical ‘hiccups’, and this performance was no exception. There were a few timing issues, the interval announcement was rather quiet (causing some confusion among the audience as to whether the interval had begun), and the transitions between location projections were not always smooth. Sometimes the pauses between scenes were quite long, leaving a few awkward silences. However, I’m sure that most of these issues will iron themselves out as the run goes on.

Speaking to director Finley Hodges after the show, he wishes to pass on what a ‘blast’ the production process has been. He is incredibly proud of his cast and crew and thinks people should come to see Super Kart because it’s a ‘fun-packed show’ with a premise known by so many, yet brings something new.

Tickets are still available for Super Kart‘s performance on Monday 2nd March: https://www.su.rhul.ac.uk/ents/event/4362/.

Photography provided by Antonia Bullrich.