The Mario Opera: It's Been a Long Journey
Thank you Jonathan Mann.
Jonathan Mann first began ‘The Mario Opera’ while a grad student at CalArts in 2005. The Mario Opera was originally performed at CalArts and at several venues around LA, including The Smell, Key Club, Barnsdall Gallery Theatre and the Knitting Factory.
This website was created specifically for the early versions of the The Mario Opera. When the site's domain registration expired, a new owner quickly scooped up the site. As a Nintendo aficionado whose own kids played Super Mario Bros. for hours, the new owner decided to keep as much of the site's original content as possible, while adding additional content from outside sources. Enjoy and thank you Jonathan Mann!
What if, on a crowded street, you look up and see something appear that should not, given what we know, be there. ... If you choose to go inside you may find many unexpected things....
-Mario creator, Shigeru Miyamoto
The Super Mario Brothers Opera is just what it says on the tin: a fan-scored and -performed opera based on Super Mario Brothers -- complete with trailer video and catchy soundtrack download site.
Mario Opera @ Joe's Pub Aug. 17th 2013 (NYC)
Update: Boy were my kids excited when they learned about The Mario Opera. Luckily for them we lived in NYC and so we were able to take them to the reading from the first act at Joe's Pub. It was insane. Obviously I am as were my kids, huge Mario fans. So was everyone else that were able to get tickets. I wished I had seen the earlier iterations of the show when Jonathan Mann was preforming it out on the West Coast in 2005.
Even now years later, I will occassionally start humming some of the music from the opera. It's random. For instance, just yesterday I was reviewing orders that some customers had placed at the huge online store, CleanItSupplies where I work. I was cross referencing those orders against the various brands of paper towels in stock. One customer had changed their order from one brand to another "green" brand and I was unsure if we had enough of that particular towel. And there I was humming the bubbly music from the Youtub video that was created for the Joe's Pub August 2013 show and imagining myself as a mario character sorting through the lists of paper products on the inventory feeds from the warehouses. Crazy! Right?
Well, we all know that the Mario Opera never made it to Broadway. But fortunately there are a number of mega Mario fansites, and Youtube, so I can indulge.
The Welcome Song | The Mario Opera | Jonathan Mann
MARIO: THE OPERA
Mario’s Back Story
What if, on a crowded street, you look up and see something appear that should not, given what we know, be there. You either shake your head and dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than we think. Perhaps it really is a doorway to another place. If you choose to go inside you may find many unexpected things.
-Mario creator, Shigeru Miyamoto
Mario takes his job very seriously. He spends all day on his hands and knees, his head beneath a sink. Or sometimes he’s deep in a basement using his wrench and wits to solve one puzzle after another. Everyone who knows Mario considers him of the highest caliber, a true gentleman. He always holds the door for women and he can frequently be seen helping old ladies with their groceries. He leads a very content life. He has no wants or complaints. But there is always something nagging, deep in the recesses of his mind, a longing that tells him he was meant for something more. He never speaks to anyone about these feelings, he is barely aware of them himself. And in truth, he has no one to confide in. For all his hard work and honest living, Mario is never able to get close to anyone.
One day, while working on a particularly complicated job in the basement of an old tenement building, Mario hears the oddest thing coming from behind the wall: a girl’s voice, crying for help. It is the most terrifyingly beautiful sound he has ever heard. He has to know where it is coming from. He puts his fingers to the grout between the bricks, and a little piece comes off. He picks a bit more, and before long he has uncovered a large, green pipe. Mario knows a thing or two about pipes, but he has never seen anything like this before. The screaming call for help continues, and it is clear what he has to do. He takes a deep breath, and he crawls into the pipe.
A Few Things To Think About
Everyone in the opera knows the story, except Mario.
Everyone in the story knows the truth about their own existence, except Mario.
Everyone in the story knows that Mario is the hero, except Mario
The love that Mario feels for Peach is encoded into his very being.
Bowser loves the princess in the same way.
The Nintendo-playing audience member will immediately recognize these relationships.
A Synopsis of Act One
Our opera begins a few months after Mario crawls through that pipe in Brooklyn. As far as Mario’s concerned, he’s just an average plumber who has happened to stumble into a surreal fantasy world filled with Mushroom People, smiling hills, super power flowers, and a beautiful Princess named Peach.
Mario and Princess Peach fall in love. Act One begins at their wedding ceremony in the King’s Court, where the Loyal Mushroom Kingdom Subjects are singing and dancing about how excited they are to see two people so much in love. Peach’s father sings a song about how happy he is to have a young, strong man like Mario take over as King.
The tone shifts suddenly when the elite Koopa Army bursts in and demands to be allowed to take part in the festivities. The Loyal Mushroom Kingdom Subjects object, and an all-out-brawl seems imminent. However, as soon as the first punch is thrown, the entire scene freezes except for Mario, who is left standing completely bewildered by the strange direction things are moving. He notices a rumbling sound, and he looks up to see Bowser, the King of the Koopas, towering over him. Bowser and Mario stare hard at each other. Bowser has a huge advantage over Mario: he knows how everything will turn out. Mario, completely confused, has only an extremely powerful instinct to protect the Princess. Despite this, he’s simply no match for Bowser, and the large spiked Koopa King flings him to the ground. The scene comes back to life, and before we know it, the Koopa Army has destroyed the King’s Court and the Princess has been kidnapped.
Bowser takes Peach to his castle beneath the Toadstool Kingdom. Mario is left alone, in the dark except for a single yellow question-mark-box, glowing and pulsating ten feet above his head. He sings a lament to the darkness, recounting his childhood in Brooklyn. He questions himself and the frightening new situation he’s found himself in.
Slowly, a new scene fades in behind him. The first image (from level
1-1 in the original Super Mario Bros.) appears, with four question mark boxes, a warp pipe, and a Goomba walking towards Mario. The Goomba, a nameless minion of the Koopa Army, has a massive amount of power over Mario, and uses this to taunt him and play on his fears. What’s happened to the Princess? What can he, a simple plumber, do against such a powerful Koopa King? Mario becomes agitated, his temper starts to boil, and before he knows what he’s doing, he jumps on the Goomba’s head, squashing him, killing him in cold blood. When he snaps out of his rage, Mario is devastated. Not only has he murdered this evil yet innocent creature, but the act felt natural and good. It felt right.
This is the moment when Mario first begins to awaken to his existence. He takes off running through the level, jumping, stomping, killing. He sings another song, still confused, but with a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. He intuits the direction things are going, though he’s not sure how he feels about it. He gets to the end of the level and meets Toad, an ally. Toad explains that he knows what Mario needs to do, and can lead him in the right direction. He takes Mario down the pipe at the end of the level, and they enter the next cavernous stage that stretches for miles underground.
Mario begins to recognize things, to remember them. He sees a question mark box, and somehow knows there’s a mushroom in it. Without really understanding why, he eats the mushroom, not being wholly surprised to find that he’s doubled in size. Then he remembers: The Power Mushrooms make you grow. But what about the Power Flowers? He walks a bit further, calling out things before they happen: that Koopa is about to jump, that Goomba will fall from that platform. He approaches another box, one that he knows has a Power Flower in it. He hits the bottom of the box to make the flower appear and then he puts his hands on the stem. He can feel the energy running through him. He is more powerful than he ever imagined. He can shoot fireballs. He’s a towering, fire-shooting killing machine. And it feels good. For the first time, he’s realizing his full potential. This is what he’s meant to do: to save the Princess, to rid the Mushroom Kingdom of evil.
But what about the foresight? Almost as soon as he’s become comfortable in his Hero skin, the weight of his existence starts bearing down on him. As the floodgates of his memory are opened, he remembers all his past lives, trillions and trillions of lives, each one exactly the same. The Princess will always be kidnapped, and Mario will always save her. It is all so scripted, as though someone else is controlling him, as if he has no power over anything he says, or does, or feels. The severe pointlessness of it all becomes unbearable, and Mario collapses. He wants to give up, to lay down and die, but can’t because of some unseen force. When Mario finally reaches the mini-boss, Magikoopa, also known as the Lizard Wizard, he doesn’t have the strength to fight. With one flick of his wand, the Lizard Wizard shoots a barrage of triangles, circles and squares that hit Mario hard, right in the chest. Mario goes flying through the air. He is dead.
END OF ACT 1
Some of My Inspiration
One of my earliest memories is of playing Mario. I am 4 years old and sitting in the basement of a family that lives up the street. Though there are 4 children in the family, all older than me, I remember being alone. I remember a feeling of exhilaration that I’m not sure I can ever fully express.
As I reach world 1-2, the second level, I find out that the player can break the blocks near the top of the screen, above which sit the numbers and icons that make up Mario’s statistics. This moment of discovery was specifically meaningful. All of a sudden, I, Jonathan, had found a secret that no one else could possibly know about. I maneuvered Mario so that he stood above the fray among the numbers and icons. I made Mario run through the level, all the way to the end where there’s a series of elevators and then a pipe, which takes the player out to the end. But with my new found knowledge of what was and wasn’t possible in Mario’s world, I pressed on, bypassing the pipe and staying above it. And then I reached it, The Warp Zone. It was too much. It felt no less exciting, no less dangerous and titillating than if I had been out in the woods and stumbled upon a cave. It was a discovery of great magnitude, like swimming in the pond in our backyard and finding Atlantis. I was awed by my power over this game.
Mario has a special and nostalgic place in many people’s hearts. Re-interpreting his universe and adapting it for a live action opera is something I take very seriously. This is an idea whose time has come, and it’s up to us to bring it to life.
MARIO: THE OPERA
BY Jonathan Mann
At first, Mario does not know who he is. He does not know that he is a character in a video game, who has had the exact same princess saving experience, literally, trillions of times (think about every time anyone anywhere has ever played a Mario game) Slowly, through the process of experiencing it again, this fact is revealed to him and he becomes extremely angry and bitter. These feelings defeat him, he dies, proceeds to heaven, where he searches for God.
This is basically the story of a man coming to grips with his destiny.
CAST OF CHARACTERS:
-The Toadstool King
-6 Loyal Mushroom Kingdom Subjects
-6 Members of the Koopa Elite, later Shy Guys
-The Lizard Wizard
OPENING WELCOME SONG
MARIO, dressed in a tuxedo complete with red cummerbund and top hat, comes out with a guitar.
Come on in
Set right down
You're about to hear the greatest story around
You might think you know it
But i disagree
So just settle down and listen to me:
Down in the Mushroom Kingdom
There's a man named Mario
And exactly where he comes from no one knows
But when destiny it drops you just a' right where you belong
Who are you to question if it's wrong?
So mario the plumber
Unassuming as can be
Will be the heir to the Mushroom Kingdom
When he marries Princess Peach
So have a seat
That things never work out as you planned
And if you'd like
I can explain
About Bowser and his Domain
Deep beneath this Kingdom
Lives a creature of great size
With spikes over his body
And flames are in his eyes
He rules his lava kingdom
With iron first and iron tail
Manages to kidnap the princess without fail
So Mario the Plumber
Must go and save his bride, the Princess
From the clutches of the Koopa King
So now my song is almost done
But now i reveal the real fun
See, Mario's done this all before
About a trillion times or more
Cause Mario's just a video game character
Trademarked by Nintendo
He's been around since the early 80's
Created by Miyamoto
And so our hero is unaware, and is in for a surprise because
He has no will of his own, but he thinks he does
So Mario the Plumber
Thinks he's real live flesh and blood man
But he'll find out soon enough
He's part of some gamer's master plan
THE SQUIRE, THE KING, MARIO AND PRINCESS
The KING'S COURT, resembling the king's court in Super Mario Bros. 3. On stage left, The KING is sitting in his throne, while center downstage his SQUIRE, a small character with a mushroom on his head, is standing facing the audience. Behind him in groups are the LOYAL MUSHROOM KINGDOM SUBJECTS, each with slightly different mushrooms on their heads. MARIO and PRINCESS PEACH are sitting on either side of the king, and next to MARIO is LUIGI, while YOSHI sits next to the PRINCESS.
We are gathered here today
The union of Mario
And Princess Peach the Daughter of this Kingdom
Good fortune's on it's way
Of this I'm sure
For Mario the Plumber has the strength we need
To fortify this kingdom
So now lend your ears
To our powerfully mighty king
On the state of our Toadstool nation he will sing
Yes it's true, my Toadstool friends
My time as king is coming to it's end
But it's as a father that my heart grows
I'm so proud to be succeeded by Mario
True, the Koopa threat has been heavy on our minds
When they cross our borders and they steal our vines
But in our darkest hour there will always be a light
As long as these two marry everything will be all right
But here, if every-thing's in order
And if everybody's ready now
I'd like to call forth my daughter
To speak her wedding vows
Mario you love me
And not just for my Pink Dress
You're a plumber from another world
Didn't even know that I was Princess
Mario you love me
And you love the way I sing
And you love to read my letters
Gonna be the queen and you'll be my king
Princess Peach you love me
And it's not just for my overalls
I was working one day in Brooklyn
My head down a pipe and I swear i hear you call
Mario come find me
I thought I'd heard an angel sing
And now we'll spend our days together
I'll be the queen and you'll be my king
(You'll be my queen, and I'll be your king)
The LOYAL MUSHROOM KINGDOM SUBJECTS begin dancing. The first half of this song is in 4/4, and should be lots of up and down movement, while the second half is in 3/4 and should be waltz-y. PRINCESS, MARIO, LUIGI, YOSHI and the KING all watch as the peasants dance, essentially for their enjoyment.
(in heavy 4/4)
Princess Peach and Mario
In love from the beginning
They are so in it!
Love is like a Yoshi's egg
What's in it is kept hidden
But once you're in it
(switch to 3/4)
When you're in love
Beneath the Mushroom sky
All the flowers sing
A tear comes to your eye
Cause now you know
At last for sure
That she's for you
and you're for her
When you're Princess
And you've finally found the one
Who you love with all your heart
Who will wear your father's crown
Cause now you know
Through thick and thin
That he's for you
And you're for him
And nothing will ever change that...
The Koopa chorus enters in a swinging, flowing manner. They are stopped by some of the bigger TOADSTOOLS, and a little tiff takes place as they sing.
We come bearing roses for the princess fair
Our master sends his greetings
We mean no harm, I swear!
Yes, and we've got little presents
For all the peasants
Now, just let us deliver them
Oh no you don't!
OK, then we'll just sit and observe the
And then we'll
Soon be on our way
Oh no you won't!
The TOADSTOOLS rise up and defiantly sing a song of threats. Upon their last line, they all engage in battle with the KOOPAS, and then everything freezes except for MARIO, who sings his song of confusion.
You have offended us
Simply with your presence
We are not peasants
Now prepare to meet your maker
For Mario the Plumber
Will mighty conquer
And crush you!
I don't know what they expect for me to do
If it's a fight they want, it's five against two
They look to me as some kind of hero
But I'm not, I'm just a man
I feel something inside me, a wire being crossed
I've got to protect the Princess at all costs
A premonition I have way deep in my soul
Although I don't fully understand
BOSWER menacingly stands over MARIO, who is doing his best to stay between the beast and the PRINCESS. At the end of BOWSER'S song, everybody comes back to life and much to MARIO'S dismay, the KOOPAS, with BOWSER in the lead, destroy the KINGS COURT and kidnap the PRINCESS.
I love the princess
She'll marry me
I am the king of
The Koopa Army
I know what she wants
We're both royalty
And that blasted plumber
Has got nothing on me
So put your arms around my neck
Don't be afraid
No?! Well OK, then
We'll have it your way
Cause as the king of the
I have the right to take
You as my mate
I WAS WRONG
The trashed KINGS COURT and it's inhabitants disappear and we are left with a completely black stage save a spotlight on MARIO and a YELLOW PULSATING QUESTION MARK BOX that hovers far about his head.
I never dreamed I would be here
But now I think it's clear
That I don't belong
I was wrong
Growing up in Brooklyn
I always had the feeling
I was meant for something more
I was wrong, I was wrong, I was wrong
Now, here I'm standing with a choice
Am I a man now, or a boy?
Am I weak or am I strong?
I've seen visions of power
Hidden deep within the flowers
With the strength to change the world
I was wrong, I was wrong, I was wrong
I was wrong to think I was
More than just a plumber
More than just a summary
That I could break the rules
And fly away
Cut the cords
And save the day
Can't be right
Must be wrong
How do you do what you gotta do
When you swear it isn't you?
When you're feeling like a pawn?
Once upon a time not long ago
I accepted this world, oh no
I can see where I went wrong
I was wrong, I was wrong, I was wrong
MARIO, GOOMBA EXCHANGE
The opening scene from world 1-1 in Super Mario Bros. 1 appears around the YELLOW PULSATING QUESTION MARK BOX, with MARIO standing far stage right. A small GOOMBA enter from stage left and walks up to MARIO.
I am a mighty Goomba: you shall not pass!
What if I need to?
I own this piece of grass
And men named Mario forbidden
From discovering what's hidden
Master would be most displeased if
You discover how he keeps her
Tell me you mushroom or I'll, I don't know what
Oh big words from small man you don't got the guts
Talking turtles, talking mushrooms
Means that I can only assume
It's breathing conscious being
I can't kill it without reason
Well, that's more like it, just give up and go home
At least tell me where my Princess Peach has gone
Well, maybe, but it's just too risky
C'mon, my friend, if you're so mighty
You could tell me just a little
OK, I guess it wouldn't kill me!
Princess Peach now resides so far underground
That if she were to scream no one would hear a sound
So what are you just standing there for?
When the girl that you so care for
Lies beneath the earth in danger
I hope that I control my anger
Something inside me seems to be building up
This creature cares not for the woman I love
Of course I do she's Bowser's mistress
Shut your mouth, I'm getting pissed
No, I mean it, she's his plaything
He keeps her in a cage that's swinging
Back and forth, back and forth and when he decides
To have his way with her, he takes her out and ties
Her up to a bed made of steel
All the servants hear the squeals
When he's done he calls those servants
Who then come in for sloppy seconds
I'm afraid I'm gonna snap if he says one goddamn more word to me. Koopa King or no Koopa King, I've got to save the Princess. And that's going to start right here, right now. I can't believe what I'm about to do...
I know you want to do it
You know you must go through it
Don't be such a wimpy plumber
Get over here and jump goddamnit!
MARIO jumps on the GOOMBA, letting out all of his anger and frustration. He loses himself in the act of killing. Three Koopas enter from stage left and watch with delight. As the music continues MARIO, now completely out of breath and sweating, wakes from his murderous rage and sees the laughing KOOPAS
MARIO FREAK OUT THROUGH LEVEL
MARIO takes off running through the level, killing KOOPAS and GOOMBAS, and smashing blocks.
I've always tried to do the things I know are right
I'd rather fly away than make a stand and fight
Yet here I am, a murderer without a cause
A murderer, a murderer
He was taunting me, but does that explain my temper lost?
No, it doesn't!
Because I long for the way that we were
And I will kill you to get back to her
Yes, here I am, a murderer in cold blood
And worst of all: it felt good!
Everything I've done now
From stomping on that Goomba
To killing this Koopa
Oh, what have I done?
I must find a way back to Princess Peach
Must be out of my mind, she couldn't be more out of reach
Yes, the Koopa king, gosta find where his castle is
Gosta to find, gosta to find
But when I do, my skills are simply no match for his
No, they isn't!
It's just that I long for the way that we were
And I will fight him to get back to her
I wish I had way to know that she's okay
I wish I had a friend who maybe knew the way
Oh Lord, have mercy, I tremble before you
I know not what you wish me to do
Oh, God it's hopeless
HOPE IN TOAD
At the end of the level, MARIO meets the PRINCESS' retainer, TOAD.
My name is Toad
I am an ally
I was sent to show you
Where you need to go to
Come quickly follow
Me down this warp pipe
And I mean now, sir
The path to Bowser
Right at the spot where things seem to end
Fate intervenes and drops me a friend
I've never met this toadstool before
But I swear that I've heard his voice
To trust him or not, that's the dilemma
He's a mushroom, and so was the Goomba
But his face and his words seem so familiar
And besides, I haven't much choice!
THINGS ARE FAMILIER
Underground, TOAD shows MARIO the way. They encounter POWER MUSHROOMS and POWER FLOWERS. Mario is hesitant at first, but with TOAD's guidance he becomes increasingly more comfortable in his new skin.
Now I'm just a shadow
I've lost the world above
All for the woman I love
I guess I'll make the dark my home
I guess it ain't so bad
My new friend Toad knows the way
For now, things seem OK
I just wish I could see her face again
I believe in you
Sometimes that's all that it takes
To forget about mistakes and move on
A little confidence is all
That you needed
Do you see that question mark box over there?
Yeah, I do
Do you know what's in it?
Yes, that's right. And do you know what happens when you eat that mushroom?
I...I double in size...but how did I know that?
Well Mario, that's simply what is, what was and what will always be.
This cavern seems to hold the very
Meaning of my life, it's scary
Flower's stem flash like a warning
And I find myself transforming
A different face, a hero's skin
To replace the doubt within
Only goal, my one desire
Attainable now, through this fire
If I'm not driven mad with power
And if I can hold on to this flower
Princess Peach, the Koopa King
I can handle anything
Ah, it feels so good to finally know who I am
And what I was meant to do. I can't believe it. It's just incredible. Ah.
Toad quietly exits as MARIO is now completely capable. However, as soon as he leaves, the mood slightly shifts and a new, darker tone takes over.
This is what I've been waiting for
From now on I swear I will
Shoot fireballs and kill
For the Princess
I've never felt more alive
But what am I seeing
Is it the future or the past?
It's all happened so fast
Could there be
More to this than I see...
More than just familiar
It's almost like I've been here before
That Koopa's about to jump
I've seen it a million times!
Right when I gain so much
I leave so much behind
What's that sound?
Toad?...Where'd you go?
What is that sound?
I...I know that sound
Of course you do!
No...this is different...
I've been here before
De Ja Vu!
No! I've BEEN here before
I've been here...many times
O jesus. O god...no!
HE'S THE LIZARD WIZARD
MARIO is dragging himself along slowly, feeling the full weight of his existence bearing down on him. As he's walking along, a group of six SHYGUYS are dancing around him taunting and teasing.
Answer me, my love
Exactly why you had to go...
You knew that it was dangerous
Cause this ain't the first time, no...
And I can't keep wandering around
Looking for you, risking life and limb
It's all I can do to keep loving you
I've seen fire in the pits of hell
I've fought sharks on the ocean's floor
I've seen statues come to life, man
Even talking dinosaurs
But I'd trade it all in instantly
Just to see
Just to glance a little piece of you
I do it again and again
I keep loving you
Now I'm falling
And I'm screaming
He came at me so quick there's no way I could have heard him
He's the Lizard
He's the Wizard
And he points his magic wand and the earth becomes turtles
Turtles thirsty for blood
And they spring to life out of mud
And they follow you 'till you're dead
Or you kill 'em
Or you...kill 'em
The LIZARD WIZARD points his wand at MARIO and shoots triangles, circles and squares that hit him hard right in the chest. He goes toppling back, singing the last few lines sprawled on the ground writhing in pain. The LIZARD WIZARD disappears and then reappears in the middle of the audience. A spotlight hits him just in time for the final guitar solo, while MARIO continues to writhe.
Triangles, circles and squares
I turned around...he's disappeared
I can't have that far to go
But really, I don't know...
END OF ACT 1
May 22-25, 2005
California Institute of the Arts
Directed by Jeremy Schwartz and Jonathan Mann
Produced by Jonathan Mann and Annette Stock
|Princess Peach||Mary Loveless|
|Toadsworth the Squire||Paul Brickman|
|King Toadstool||Glen Curry|
|The Lizard Wizard||Kai West|
|Koopas/Shy Guys||Ren Bell
The Super Mario Bros. Band:
Guitar: Kai West
Guitar: Dylan Mckenzie
Bass: Matt Davis
Keys: Ashley Eriksson
Drums: Nick Murray
Scenic Design and Building: Mark Mendleson
Costumes: Jamie Bresnan
Projections: Joshua Flietell (Dr Light)
Lights: John Ekert
Construction: Marissa Par, Milly Sanders, Alisa Mittin, Mackenzi, Kim Thompson, Walker, Ashley Eriksson, Kenny, Run Crew: Kathleen Maressa, Vincent Tula
October 15, 2005
Barnsdall Theater, Hollywood
Directed by Jeremy Schwartz and Jonathan Mann
Produced by Jonathan Mann and the CalArts Alumni Association
|Princess Peach||Angela Frocillo|
|Toadstool King||Glenn Curry|
|Toadsworth the Squire||Ren Bell|
|Magikoopa the Lizard Wizard||Ryan Whitney|
|Toadstools/Shy Guys||Katelyn Krause
|Koopas/Shy Guys||Oliver Langrall,
Cast and Crew Bios
Jonathan Mann Writer/Director/Mario
Jonathan Mann is a 23-year-old singer, songwriter, video game enthusiast, nostalgia peddler and rock opera purveyor. He has a bachelors degree in music and recording from Bennington College, where he co-wrote, directed, produced and starred in an original rock opera, The Last Nympho Leprechaun. He has written more than 250 songs.
Jeremy Schwartz Director/Goomba/Bowser
Jeremy Schwartz is an animator, director, musician and Nintendo loyalist. He studied film and digital media at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and is currently working on his masters in experimental animation at the California Institute of the Arts. He has written and directed numerous films and shows, and has served as the managing director of the Iambic Pentameter theater group and the music director for the Porter Theater Group.
Guitar: Dylan McKenzie
Guitar: Ryan Whitney
Bass: Matt Davis
Keys: Alex Bierdz
Drums: Charlie Dresser
Set Design and Construction by Mark Mendleson
Projections by Joshua Fleitell (Dr Light)
Costume Design and Construction by Jamie Bresnan and Leah Morelli
Published on Jul 23, 2013
The Mario Opera, my rock opera based on the Super Mario Bros., is coming back for ONE NIGHT ONLY in the form of a staged reading here in NYC at Joe's Pub! If you're in the area, it is definitely NOT to be missed!
This video is from our first rehearsal. It was awesome. I'm crazy excited.
The Success And Failure of the Mario Opera
Jonathan Mann / https://medium.com
To begin with, I want to show you where the Mario Opera, the world’s first rock opera based on the Super Mario Bros., ended up.
OK, let’s go back to the beginning.
I was four years old with a controller in my hand, sitting on the floor in a neighbor’s basement.
I was playing the original Super Mario Bros. and I was enthralled. I jumped up and broke the blocks, and then I was running along the top of the screen and feeling like I’d stumbled on something momentous. I’d uncovered an impossible secret.
This memory is burned into my soul — it’s a fundamental part of who I am.
It seemed like I wasn’t supposed to be up there — I was breaking the rules. I ran to the end of the level this way, and discovered the warp zone, and my 4 year old mind exploded. I found this. It was freeing. I could explore and I could discover. The whole world began to open up before me.
Video games became my favorite thing, and Mario was always my favorite game. I lived and breathed Nintendo. I anticipated the release of Super Mario Bros. 3 like it was the second coming. When it was finally released, it delivered on all it’s promises so spectacularly that my faith in humanity was confirmed.
Nintendo was my life and life was good.
Back then, video games were considered cultural garbage. They were nothing more than novelty knick knacks for kids. They had no value beyond amusement, they’d rot your brain and they certainly weren’t considered anything remotely approaching art. I was most definitely wasting my time playing them.
But I loved them.
I got a bit older and became too cool for video games. My mom sold my Nintendo and I started playing guitar and growing my hair out. Bob Dylan replaced Mario. I was a songwriter. An artiste.
In college, I suddenly became obsessed with the games I had played as a kid. I scoured eBay, re-buying every game I had once owned. I was addicted to the rush of nostalgia that accompanied seeing these relics again. I was transported back to that 5 year old boy and his feeling of autonomy, awe and wonder.
I was awash in emotion every time I picked up the controller. It wasn’t long before I started thinking about making songs inspired by games, especially Mario. It was all I could think about. It was more than nostalgia; I felt that Super Mario Bros. was incredibly important, to me specifically, and to our culture at large. I wanted to tap into that.
One day, I came across an article in Wired about Shigeru Miyamoto. I had never heard of him, but when I learned that there was a single mind behind my most treasured childhood memories, I started to freak out. I had only this vague sense of feeling connected to these games and suddenly: THIS GUY. Who was he? And how was he responsible for so much joy?
I started reading everything I could about him. I found out that he grew up rural, just like me. He loved to explore in the woods, just like me. I learned that he was driven by a sense of joy, by a desire to remain open to the wonder in the world. Everything I read resonated. Not only had he created all my favorite games, but he was someone I could look up to and idolize.
I found quotes like: “What if, on a crowded street, you look up and see something appear that should not, given what we know, be there. You either shake your head and dismiss it, or you accept that there is much more to the world than we think. Perhaps it really is a doorway to another place. If you choose to go inside you may find many unexpected things.”
We were cut from the same cloth. I loved this man.
Miyamoto had a unique view of the world and created masterpiece after masterpiece that reflected that view. His passion for mystery, discovery and joy and awe and wonder — it had all come through loud and clear to me as a child. And now it was resonating even deeper with me as an adult.
I was discovering him at a time before it was a forgone conclusion that games could be art. I desperately wanted Miyamoto to be recognized for what he was: A true artist, one of the first of his kind. I was so enamored and excited by this idea that I wanted to shout it from the rooftops.
So, I wrote him a song. I tried to put into the lyrics everything I felt about him, and what he meant to my childhood.
They’re not just video games, they’re works of art
And I want the whole wide world to know
That everything he’s done has come from his heart
And so it’s no wonder
That he paints with more color
No, there is no other
I was existing in a nostalgia-fueled haze of old school video games. I didn’t want to grow up — I wanted to keep the Miyamoto-wonder alive for as long as I could. As such, I put off the real world and all it’s responsibilities in favor of the warm cocoon of grad school.
Within a week of arriving, all my feelings and thoughts about these old games formed into one single, shiny, outrageous idea: I was going to write a rock opera based on the Super Mario Bros.
I remember immediately doing a google search: It seemed so obvious, somebody had to have already thought of it. But no! All the results just pointed to famous Italian opera singers named Mario. It was up to me.
Over the course of my first semester at grad school, I feverishly worked on the songs. During that time, I went to a show in downtown LA to see The Minibosses and was blown away at how powerful it was to hear familiar tunes played live in a rock setting. I decided the opera needed to be original songs mixed with all Mario music. I was going to go for some deep cuts too, not just the stuff everyone knows. I downloaded every Mario track from VGmusic.com, put them on my iPod, and spent hours walking around campus listening to the songs over and over and over.
After a couple of months, I had 10 songs that comprised the first act. I recorded some demos and put up flyers looking for actors, musicians, a costume designer, set person and choreographer. I got a bunch of great people on board and before long we had a pretty decent show.
We performed over the course of 4 nights in May of 2005. G4 came out and covered the first performance
We had no idea what we were doing, but damn if we weren’t having an amazing time. It felt great to be able to pay homage to my hero. Miyamoto created something that touched me deeply, and now I had created something of my own that reflected that.
Over the next year or so, I worked with my crew to put the on the show a dozen or so more times: We played clubs large and small around Los Angeles. We’d play anywhere that would have us. The biggest show we had was at the Knitting Factory, where we got to open for The Advantage. It was such an amazing night.
After that though, we started to lose momentum. It was a huge amount of work to stage the thing, a lot people were involved, and we weren’t making any money. We all had day jobs, or school or other commitments. There was also the ever-present idea that even if we were able to make it a viable thing, it seemed extremely unlikely that Nintendo would ever give us their blessing.
Eventually we disbanded, and I started a new project called GameJew (which is another story entirely).
8 years later, through a very strange set of circumstances, I was introduced to a producer who was interested in putting The Mario Opera on as a staged reading at Joe’s Pub in NYC. I hadn’t thought about the show in ages — I had just about given up on the idea of it ever really happening—but we booked the gig and performed for an enthusiastic, sold out crowd. It felt amazing to reconnect with the songs. Even though I’ve left the majority of my nostalgia-fever behind, it’s still possible for me to tap into the energy and passion I once had for old school games.
After the performance, we talked about ways we might bring The Mario Opera to fruition, for a true full run, maybe off-off-Broadway. There was talk of a Kickstarter. It seemed like it could work. But then, literally days after we had this conversation, the news came out that Nintendo had sqaushed a Metroid fan film that was funding through Kickstarter. That just about killed my ambition with the project for good.
I’m really proud of the Mario Opera — I think it’s a great show that anyone who grew up playing Mario will appreciate and enjoy, and there are moments that will give you genuine feels. I still love Nintendo with this totally irrational, gut level kind of love that I don’t feel for any other huge multi-national corporation (ok, ok, of course there’s Apple, too)
And I still look up to and love Miyamoto — so much so that I once tracked him down to sing the song I had written for him (which is ALSO another story entirely!).
I hope that someday Nintendo looses up the reigns and lets out the torrent of amazing art, music and films that would result. There’s already amazing things happening on YouTube.