Most Americans have been to Wal-Mart. But you haven’t truly experienced it until you see Wal-Mart, The Musical. I attended a performance just a few days ago.
The entire play takes place in a Super Wal-Mart. It is Sunday afternoon during the busy, holiday shopping season.
Here’s the story in a nutshell. Our heroine, a young ingénue who looked almost exactly like me, visits the Land of Wal-Mart. She has been sprinkled with holiday cheer fairy dust and sent on a quest. She must find a magic wand that will reanimate the Christmas tree lights when half of each strand has gone out (kind of like a Christmas light defibrillator). Then she must get checked out and back to her car before the dust wears off and she turns into a mean, bitchy old crone.
During the prelude we were treated to Mariah Carey’s spiritual take on “Santa’s Got A Booty Call (So You Better Be Naughty!)”.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the place when one of the female leads, imaginatively costumed in black stretch pants and a shirt cut low enough to reveal a pair of angels tattooed on the upper slopes of her…charms, softly crooned a simple ballad to the children gathered around her cart: “I TOLD You 20 Times”.
“I TOLD you 20 times you gotta be 8 years old before Santa will bring you Grand Theft Auto. I’m going to have your daddy (Rodney, that guy whose staying with us and kinda like your daddy) WHUP YOUR A** if you ask me ONE more time!”
I wasn’t the only one who left the show singing THAT moving tune.
The children’s choir almost stole the show with their rousing hit, “I Want THAT!” The lyric was not complicated – only “I Want THAT”, over and over – but the performance elevated the words to art. The volume of their childish cries built and built to a mighty crescendo. The number ended with the whole choir falling to the floor and kicking its collective heels. Unforgettable.
The Greeter’s Gospel Choir’s a cappella rendition of “Go Tell It On The Mountain (The Holidays Are Here)” had everyone clapping along. The reworked lyrics explained in an uplifting, catchy way why saying Merry Christmas at the door would be the same as forcing shoppers to submit to full-immersion baptism in order to get in the store. Entertaining and really thought provoking.
But the showstopper was the big production number finale.
I took a couple of dance classes as a kid, so I’m familiar with steps like the flap-ball-change. But I’ve never seen the moves the Wal-Mart Shoppers Dance Troupe perfected for this extravaganza, a routine they call the Oblivious Shuffle.
Each shopper/dancer leaned on his or her cart and pushed it slowly, oh so slowly, back and forth across the stage. Their shuffling gate kept one shoe (or house slipper, as the case may be) on the floor at all times. The shuffling feet made a “shush, shush” sound that underscored the “squeak, squeak” of their unoiled cart wheels. The occasional crash of colliding carts played like cymbals in the composition.
About half of the dancers had cell phones pressed to their ears. One at a time, each would burst into song with lyrics like “…so that witch he married said they couldn’t take the kids Christmas Eve and I told her if you think I’m going to pick them up on HIS weekend, you can just tell their dad…” Their solos were incomprehensible, one-sided conversations when taken by themselves. Together, they wove a timeless Christmas story.
The dancers went through their movements with vacant, glassy stares that gave the illusion that they were totally unaware of everyone else around them.
Think of Night of the Living Dead as a ballet.
Meanwhile, the young ingénue wove her cart skillfully in and out of the shuffling throng, trying to get to the registers which kept receding out of her reach. The checkers cried “price check on 10, change needed on 5, register frozen on 8“ in a surprisingly harmonious medley.
I don’t want to give away the ending in case you decide to see it. Suffice it to say our heroine bore a marked resemblance to the apple-wielding hag in Snow White as she hobbled to her SUV when the curtain fell.