In “The Trail to Oregon,” a Musical Parody of the Classic Computer Game, Each Dysentery Track Is a Love Song

“Love on the trail! Leave the kids at home to come see something ridiculous.”

The Trail to Oregon (Courtesy of Chapel Theatre)

Sean and Landy Lamb, the PDX power couple of tuneful schtick, just completed their seventh stint as, respectively, John McClane and Hans Gruber in the Funhouse Lounge’s annual song-studded Die Hard parody. They first met a decade earlier during Funhouse auditions for Dr. Horrible’s Singalong Blog and fell in love while headlining a Buffy the Vampire Slayer musical.

When the curtain fell on the final performance of Die Hard’s initial run, Sean proposed. “There’s a lot of flirting between Hans and John,” Landy tells WW. “They go through this terrible traumatic incident only to finally find the right match for one another. It’s basically a romance.”

In 2023, after joining longtime friends Ilya and Corinn deTorres in a revival of beloved Stageworks Ink pastiche Varsity Cheerleader Werewolves LIVE From Outer Space for the deTorres’ Chapel Theatre, the Lambs were invited to take a more central role on a similar show.

Atop the short list of absurd pageantry was The Trail to Oregon, an adaptation of the undying computer game that remains both a cultural touchstone (spawning those “You have died of dysentery” T-shirts) and a work in progress (a 2021 version of the game for Apple Arcade sought to eliminate the historical inaccuracies and Native American stereotypes of the original).

A small roster of former collaborators (including actor Ilya and choreographer Corinn) were enlisted to round out an updated production, which stars Landy and Sean (and was directed by Ilya and Landy). As snowpocalypse 2024 stalled rehearsals, the housebound Lambs spoke to WW about going to the Chapel and the evolution of their careers.

“The one thing we haven’t quite done as a couple is create something of our own,” Landy says. “We don’t have a brain child! Or, even, a physical one!”

WW: So, The Trail to Oregon comes from out of state?

Sean Lamb: The show that we’re doing at Chapel was first produced by this company out of Chicago called StarKid [best known for A Very Potter Musical]. Their head, a guy named Jeff Blim, wrote the show as kind of a pet project. We were in the 2017 Funhouse Lounge production and both loved the show.

Has the show changed much since the Funhouse run?

Landy Lamb: First and foremost, there’s the brand-new choreography for most of our songs. Corinn deTorres has been a member of the TriptheDark Company [which she co-founded] and an incredibly talented dancer for essentially her whole life. We had some movement in our songs before, but now there’s an actual choreographer.

Sean Lamb: She’s going to kick our arses.

This isn’t at all improv, then?

Sean Lamb: There are two interactive elements in the show.

Landy Lamb: During the opening number, we gather names from the audience for the five core family members that are then used throughout the night. Very similar to the game, where you’d name all the members of your party.

Sean Lamb: The challenge for the actors onstage is then to remember those names and repeat them. So, we ask that the names be really creative.

Landy Lamb: They punctuate both the sillier lines and the more serious, so we’re not looking for Tom, Dick, or Harry. We’re looking for….

Sean Lamb: Dildo. Or, for instance, Dirty Diaper.

Landy Lamb: Baloney Hands is a good one. Also, during intermission, the audience gets to decide who dies of dysentery. The shows never end the same.

What about the musical numbers? Are there dysentery ballads?

Sean Lamb: More than one, definitely. Let’s just say that there’s a lot of shitting.

Landy Lamb: Lots of shitting, lots of fart noises—it’s a very irreverent show. For one example, there’s a song called “It Pays to Be an Animal” that has the memorable phrase, “When you wake up with blood on your dick, and you don’t even know where it came from.” That’s repeated several times in our show.

And the change of venue lends a different feel?

Landy Lamb: As I’m sure you’re aware, a lot of theater companies around town have been really suffering lately. So, Chapel was looking to build an audience for the future and make sure they’ll continue to thrive. They wanted to go bigger, Trail to Oregon was floated, and they really loved the idea—especially since Clackamas County’s right where the actual trail ends. We open two days after Oregon’s 165th birthday, and what better way to celebrate than a show all about getting here?

Which is also two days after Valentine’s Day.

Landy Lamb: Love on the trail! Leave the kids at home to come see something ridiculous. Oregon’s for lovers!

Sean Lamb: Yeah, fuck Virginia! That’s our closing statement.

SEE IT: The Trail to Oregon plays at the Chapel Theatre, 4107 SE Harrison St., Milwaukie, 971-350-9675, 7:30 pm Thursday–Saturday, 2 pm Sunday, Feb. 16–March 9. $25–$30.

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