Chicago READER, May 23, 2003


MIYAGI! A KARATE KID MUSICAL, New Millennium Theatre Company, at Boxer Rebellion Theater. Watching this late-night romp sober doesn't do it any favors. An unashamedly unauthorized musical version of the 1984 kiddie klassic that did not make Ralph Macchio a star, this smart-ass adaptation by director Chad Wise and musical director Jonathan Webb borrows tunes from, among other victims, Abba, Vanilla Ice, and Beauty and the Beasts.

Here Daniel is a soccer playing New Jersey underdog who moves to California, where he falls in love and fights the Cobra Kai dojo, a bunch of snobbish punks who know all the right move but not the spirit of karate. This Daniel learns from Kesuke Miyagi whose lessons in how to sand and wax car exteriors apply directly to demolishing a Cobra rival in a martial-arts showdown.

Achingly faithful, this 90-minute parody conveys the movie's mindless optimism with cheesy choreography, overwrought acting, and a few too many ad-libs. John Francisco, who goes beyond Macchio's blue collar cuteness to Jerry Lewis excess, jerks up a funky storm as tempestuous teen “Daniel-san," Kim Irwin Dildine is hilariously pseudoprofound in the title role, and Zenna Wise emotes charmingly as Daniel's  California dreamer. If nothing here rises to level of camp travesty, consider the bland source. Still, a non-drinking audience will never give this trifle the indulgence it demands.                                                                                    ---Lawrence Bommer


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