Chris Neuner has uniquely varied interests. The composer, lyricist, and producer once wrote a musical based on the life of Henry Ford. After that, he turned his focus to baby making (or lack thereof) and he penned Infertility: A Musical That’s Hard to Conceive. Now, the Long Island theater maven has given birth to a new creation with CocoaDios, the latest immersive theater experience that is currently giving New Yorkers a vacation for the senses.
CocoaDios opened on May 5th at the hip Brooklyn joint, House of Yes and is running through May 21st. Through original music, singing, drumming, aerial stunts, and impressive costumes, it tells the tempestuous story of how chocolate was introduced to the world through Meso-American mythology. Audiences stand for the one hour show and are treated to actual chocolate samples which Neuner says is, “chocolate considered to be among the best and purest in the world”. Throughout the show, it is melted down and applied to both cast members and the audience. Mezcal samples are also provided and other chocolate inspired drinks are available for purchase at the bar. Within twenty minutes of the show, a fragrant waft of cocoa pleasantly drifts through the club accompanied by some catchy,original tunes.
Neuner spent a great deal of time researching the show having traveled to Mexico City, Belize, and Guatemala to learn about cocoa farming and sustainable trade. “I was able to tour with local cocoa farmers in Belize and learned how labor intensive it is,” he said in a recent phone interview. “It really made an impression on me.” Although the chocolate that he purchases is nearly double than commercial chocolate, Neuner acknowledges the struggle that many go through to produce it. With sustainable trade, farmers are able to reduce economic strain, create income, and preserve environmental resources.
Neuner learned the myth about chocolate through an academic friend who has a PhD in Ancient religions. “Anytime people are around it, it’s just a good time”, Neuner said. “The chemical reason is one of many. Theobromine is an alkaloid that exists only in chocolate. It’s a celebration and it’s fun. When you add the elements of sin and redemption, it just seemed natural to put them all together.” Bringing the show to life has been both a challenge and a joy. Neuner noted the distinct dynamic of bringing a “wonderful mishmash” of people together- from aerialists to Broadway singers, dancers, and Latino pop stars. “It gets me up every day and puts me to bed at night,” he said.
The show has been well received and Nuener hopes to take it to the next level, potentially to Las Vegas or Mexico City. Given the interactive nature, audiences should know that they may walk out with chocolate on their faces. So…lady who complained about fake blood splotches on your Burberry scarf at American Psycho and had the stage manager pay for dry cleaning -be forewarned- bring an over-sized Ziploc bag if you come to CocoaDios. Neuner knows how to show you a great time, but he’s not tending to your textiles.
Cocoadios plays at House of Yes (2 Wycoff Avenue, Brooklyn NY). For tickets and information, visit http://cocoadios.com/