The Horror Honeys: 'Robot Monster The Musical' Almost Blasts Off

'Robot Monster The Musical' Almost Blasts Off

Photos courtesy of Ken Werther PR

A Hollywood Fringe Festival Review with Musical Horror Honey Brittany Mosley

Robot Monster The Musical (2017)

The film-based campy horror musical canon continues to grow at an exponential rate. From Little Shop of Horrors to Evil Dead: The Musical, these shows are raunchy, funny, and full of dramatic hyperbole. Robot Monster The Musical, receiving its world premiere this year at the Hollywood Fringe Festival, aims to join the ranks of these fun titles. While it’s an admirable start and has the potential to be very fun, it seems to need a little more work.

Marcus Chavez (as Robot Monster) & Jamie Miller (as Alice)
Robot Monster The Musical, based on the 1953 film Robot Monster, tells the story of a little boy named Johnny (Dana DeRuyck), who loves to play space adventure games with his sister, Carla (Stephanie Thomas). While playing in the park one day, Johnny and Carla meet two scientists, The Professor (Don Margolin) and his assistant Roy (Andrew Villarreal), who are uncovering what appears to be a space alien shape in rocks. Johnny’s mother Martha (Szilvia Juhasz) and sister Alice (Jamie Miller) come find the kids and ask them to come back to take a nap. After napping, Johnny wakes up to a post-apocalyptic world where Ro-Man (played by Marcus Chavez and voiced by Derek Long), an alien, has come to earth and destroyed all but eight humans, most of whom are Johnny’s family.

One of the most impressive parts of Robot Monster The Musical was the quality of the acting and singing. The actors were not mic’d, a huge challenge in any musical, and yet they were able to project and sing well in a space that was not terribly small. Both DeRuyck and Thomas, playing children in this production, were able to pull off a nasally, child-like vocal quality as well with wonderful execution, while still being able to blend seamlessly with the adult voices. All of the actors did an incredible job playing up the camp when the script called for it, but without losing a sense of human realism, so audiences could still relate and empathize with their journeys.

Chavez, with Dana DeRuyck & Stephanie Thomas
While the actors worked as hard as they could, the script material and songs themselves need a bit more work. The songs varied widely in both style and relevance to the story. While several of the songs worked well to further the plot or set up character qualities, the majority of the songs, such as “Painless Death / Resistance Death," struggled to fit into the show. Similarly, the script was inconsistent in its character development, particularly with Alice, the ingĂ©nue of the plot. At one turn, she is an independent woman and scientist, and at the next, she’s marrying the man who objectifies and belittles her talents. While this type of arc makes sense for campy, terrible old horror and sci-fi films, it is up to a scriptwriter to help make sense and tie these together. Additionally, joke themes ranged widely from scene to scene, from fart jokes to sexual jokes but were not effectively strung throughout the script. In this case, it almost seems as if the book worked too hard to play up campy elements while sacrificing some of the storytelling.

Val Peterson, Don Margolin, & Dana DeRuyck
The direction of the show itself was wonderful. Director Derek Long took a limited space and minimal props and created several unique environments in which actors moved seamlessly throughout. The use of projection, showing clips from the film as well as broadcasts from Ro-Man to his superior, Great Guidance (Rich Silverman), were all effective storytelling devices.

It is worth noting that there are plenty of elements in this production of Robot Monster The Musical that showcase gleaming potential to create a great campy-horror musical. It will be exciting to see how the show evolves from its world premiere.

Musical Horror Honey Rating: 2.5 plastic space helmets out of 5

For more information on Robot Monster The Musical and other Hollywood Fringe Festival titles, visit their website!