White Noise

A Cautionary Musical

Music and Lyrics by Robert Morris,

Steven Morris and Joe Shanewhite noise chicago

Book by Matte O’Brien

Directed & choreographed by Sergio Trujillo

At the Royal George Theatre, Chicago

White Noise is a controversial rock musical that ends as a downer

The press notes say that the Chicago production that opened on April 8, 2011 was a “World Premiere” but I found that it was produced in New Orleans at the LePetit Theatre in July, 2009.  So the Chicago production is a retooled shortened version that became a 100 minutes one act. The rock musical is a cautionary tale about the lingering racism that still permeates in America.

white noise chicago

The show’s book demonstrates problems with  conventional notions of free speech and the influence of media and the power of pop culture in today’s society.

This over-produced glitzy, over-amplified show features a blend of pop-rock, hip-hop, R & B,  and rap tunes with a few rock ballads thrown-in. The sound mixed that had the percussion dominate made the guitars inaudible and it forced the singers to scream to be heard. The lyrics became unintelligible for the most part. The choreography consisted of  sexy groping  and Nazi-styled stiff-legged marches.

white noise chicago

The story centers around Max (Douglas Sills) who is a amoral music producer who’ll do anything to makes his acts successful. We see him have his assistant, Jake (Eric William Morris) write racist tunes for his African-American act with lyrics such as “N. G. S.” (Niggers Gonna Shoot The White Boy). We see the two African-American singers, Dion (Wallace Smith) and Tyler (Rodney Hicks) sing a collection of racist and misogynistic hip-hop, R & B and rap tunes. Max micromanages them.

white noise chicago

Opposite to that act, we see Max as he finds a trio of white singers – two girls and a boy. The girls are blonds, the boy, a skin-head. They’re  white supremacists and their songs contain slurs  on  Blacks, Jews, Mexicans and gays. They are a pop-rock group that Max sees as another meal ticket. He signs and manipulates the group by putting Jake into the group to rewrite and soften their lyrics.  Jake changes their song “Niggers Suck” into “Monday Sucks” – it becomes a major hit.  Eva (Mackenzie Mauzy) and Duke (Patrick Murney) are simmering racists only going along with Max as long as they are achieving success.  Eden (Emily Padgett) isn’t so sure that being a bigot is the right thing to do. She becomes an item with Jake.

white noise chicago

Tension grows as both the ‘Blood Brothers’ -Dion & Tyler and ‘White Noise’ -Eva, Eden,Duke & Jake move up the music charts. We hear a mixture of pop-rock tunes in this 17 song one act musical. The Blood Brothers try to change their image from gangster-rap into more of a mainstream act with their clever worded and danced tune – “Hip-Hop Country.”

white noise chicago

Eva and Duke’s suppressed racists beliefs win out as they decide to challenge their audience to hear their racist message while doing a shared show with the Blood Brothers. White Noise infuriates Dion & Tyler with their song “Master Race.”  Racial fighting ensues onstage ending with the shooting of Eden. The show ends with Eva singing “I Am America” – her rock anthem that expresses her white supremacist views. The show clearly ends with a pessimistic message that white racism dominates America. I reject that notion and I believe this show will only fuel black and white racism.   I believe that the election of Barack Obama is proof that we are a more tolerant nation. I’m amazed that Whoopi Goldberg is involved as a producer of the controversial show.

At $54.50 to $74.50 per ticket, I’m not sure who the audience is for this show since it clearly appeals to a younger audience. There are a number of $20 student (with ID) tickets available in person. If you enjoy pop-rock and hip-hop, R & B and rap tunes – the White Noise is your show.  Since I don’t particularly like pop-rock music, especially with a strong percussion, so take my views in stride. I also have a problem with the pessimistic ending of the show.

Somewhat Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: April 8, 2011

For full show information, go to the White Noise page at TheatreinChicago page.

At Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted, Chicago, IL, call 312-988-9000, www.whitenoisebroadway.com, Tuesday thru Thursday at 7:30 pm, Fridays at 8 pm, Saturdays at 5 & 8 pm, Sundays at 2 & 5 pm, running time is 1 hour, 40 minutes without intermission, through May 15, 2011