“I’m Mike, and I like my shit.”
These are the first words out of the mouth of Steve Isaac, who portrays Apple visionary Steve Jobs and Apple consumer Mike (Daisey, presumably) in The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs: The Musical. That “shit” refers to his electronics. The line does a good job of summing up the entirety of the musical adaptation of Mike Daisey’s monologue.
If you find that line funny, this is for you. If you don’t, skip it.
Here’s the thing: Steve Jobs wasn’t the best guy in the world. This profanity-laden musical makes that extremely clear. But what Isaac can’t quite pull off is that Jobs was a charismatic guy. Like, incredibly charismatic. People liked him. A lot. Maybe not in the board room, but the public went nuts for him. Isaac doesn’t have the same pull: his singing leaves much to be desired, and his plow-forward approach to acting isn’t winning the audience over.
While his approach is heavy-handed, Gillian Jackson Han and Emily Kester, who play in the chorus, are sweet and funny in turns. Jackson Han especially shines, which is impressive, given that she’s a junior in high school.
The musical takes the stance that we, American consumers, don’t care about the production of our electronics as much as we should. That being said, Isaac himself doesn’t make his Mike Daisey seem sympathetic when he reports the infamous FoxConn suicides. Rather, he seems almost pleased.
The Agony and Ecstacy of Steve Jobs: The Musical
by Timothy Guillot
at Mount Vernon United Methodist Church – Mountain
900 Massachusetts Ave NW
Washington, DC, 20001
Details and tickets
It’s unclear if this is because he had trouble switching between his two characters — who are, unknowingly to one party, completely at odds — or if there was some other reason. But one would probably benefit from not coming off as smug when reporting the actual suicides of factory workers. Just a thought.
The story is really two intertwined stories: the history of Apple and the fictional account of “Mike” going to China to see where his “shit” is produced. It’s heavy-handed to say the least (one indictment of Jobs has him singing that everyone is a “Bozo or a Genius”) and when a good joke is struck (Mike sings he can do what he wants because he’s an “American in a Hawaiian fucking shirt”), we have to hear the punch line 6 times over.
The intertwining leaves both stories feeling abridged. Granted, the sound was off the night we saw the play. Given that it was opening night, this can easily be fixed in the future, but generally the audience either didn’t hear a player or had to cover their ears to prevent ear canal damage.
The unevenness of the show was saved by Jackson Han and Kester, mostly, who produced the most laughs and touching moments throughout. Jackson Han single-handedly earned the production an extra star.
If it weren’t for Isaac, this might have ended up being an interesting production. Then again, perhaps his Jobs was spot-on: it overshined everything else via force of character but still left a bitter taste in our mouths.
Still, your $17 is probably better spent going toward a new iPod.