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Marvel actually made ‘Rogers: The Musical’

| Thursday, November 9, 2023

Marissa Pane

Nothing has committed to the bit as hard as “Rogers: The Musical.” 

In the “Hawkeye” show, Clint Barton (aka Hawkeye) is forced to sit through “Rogers: The Musical” — a “Hamilton”-style Broadway adaptation of the life of Steve Rogers (aka Captain America). Then this joke concept got turned into an actual musical that exists in reality and not just in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And you can watch the whole thing for free (on YouTube!) because “Rogers” didn’t get the Broadway treatment. It was a theme park musical at Disney California Adventure park. Amazingly, though, “Rogers: The Musical” is actually kind of good?

“Rogers: The Musical” had a limited run at Disneyland from June 20 to Aug. 31, 2023. It covers Steve’s entire character arc from “Captain America: The First Avenger” to “Avengers: Endgame” within a 30-minute runtime. That’s seven movies of material (not including cameos). The show has to absolutely sprint through the highlight reel of Steve’s life with barely any connective tissue or explanation for why story beats are happening. But having a plot that makes sense isn’t the point. The point is to pander to the two most annoying demographics of people: Marvel fans and theater kids. I, unfortunately, happen to be both a recovering Marvel fan and a current theater kid. I wasn’t a difficult audience to impress.

So much of the dialogue is lifted directly from the movies just for fans to say, “I understood that reference.” Did you enjoy it when Cap said “I can do this all day” in the movies? Well, get ready to hear that line at least 20 times in the span of this 30-minute musical. However, a lot of the lines are changed from their original context in confusing ways. For instance, Bucky Barnes is cut out almost entirely, so a bunch of his memorable moments are given to Peggy instead. Peggy defends Steve from a bully and tells him to “pick on someone your own size,” and she’s the one who is with Steve till the end of the line instead of Bucky. The most consistent throughline in this mess of a plot is Steve and Peggy’s romance, which is the heart of this musical.

It’s never really the plot that makes a musical. If a musical has a good enough soundtrack, it doesn’t matter if the story’s a mess. Just look at “Phantom of the Opera.” “Rogers” delivers when it comes to the music. Skinny Steve gets a solid “I Want” song appropriately titled “I Want You” where he belts his little heart out about how much he wants to fight in World War II. The show also features Alan Menken’s “Star-Spangled Man,” the wartime song pastiche from “The First Avenger,” except they hilariously remove all mentions of Nazis and Hitler from the lyrics. Got to keep WWII history kid-friendly for the Disneyland audience. One of the funniest changes they made is yassifying Nick Fury and giving him a disco patter song called “What You Missed” where he catches Steve up on important things, such as Thai food being delicious and Darth Vader being Luke’s dad. And of course “Save the City,” the number featured in “Hawkeye” that inspired this whole musical, is a banger.

The set design and costumes left something to be desired, but it was truly a lot more impressive than your average theme park musical. The lighting was in your face and very Disney theme park, but the stage had a turntable and some pretty clever set pieces. The wigs were pure plastic, but the simplified superhero costumes really worked for the show. 

They did not need to put this much effort into a theme park musical, but I’m so glad they did. “Rogers: The Musical” is a fun bit of fanservice that doesn’t take itself too seriously. So give this a watch if you’re a Captain America fan with half an hour to spare, especially if you’re a Cap fan who likes musicals. Don’t do it for me, do it for your country.

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