Teaching a Robot to Love (the Musical)

Musicals & Operas · doubleclicks productions · Ages 8+ · United States of America

family friendly world premiere
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June 20, 2022 certified reviewer
tagged as: queer · musical · nerdy · scifi · Comedy · funny

What I liked

Heralded as a queer retelling of Frankenstein, this show has the added bonus of meeting my personal feminist agenda, having multiple leading roles for women and nonbinary characters. The show challenges the audience with questions of what makes us human, and how can we listen and make each other feel seen.

Kudos to the director AshleyWard whose skillful staging creates a wonderful and immersive experience, even with a principal who spends the first act as a computer program in a laptop. Kelby Jo McClellan as Marsh brought bubbly, endearing enthusiasm to the role and had me cheering for them the entire time.

Aliza Pearl as Mary anchors this all-around amazing cast with her beautiful voice and heartfelt expression. In one moment, during a party scene, she represented for all introverts when she ducked out to play video games, setting a firm boundary for herself. She and fellow actress Jessica Reiner-Harris who played Faun captured a beautifully frustrating love story. You know that feeling when you like someone and think they don’t notice you, but really you’re both just terrible at flirting? It’s a fun change from the traditional forbidden love stories one usually encounters.

Reiner-Harris as Faun is absolutely adorable, quirky, and even a little scary (but in a funny way). Her power of invisibility (i.e., tendency to be overlooked and ignored by those around her) while heartbreaking, added immense humor to the show. Despite her role as antagonist, Bonnie Gordon as Lavender tugged my heartstrings from the beginning, capturing challenges I have witnessed and felt being a woman in STEM. The sisterly moments between Faun and Lavender are hilarious and sweet.

I loved how both Billie and Marsh use they/them pronouns, and it’s never a thing. They don’t get misgendered, they just get to exist in this crazy future world and have other normal, human problems. Xander Jeanneret as Billie brings sidesplitting comic relief and energy. As the villain, Rob Warner playing Mr. Norton Norton captures comedic sleeze, evolving to become truly sinister and creepy in the climax. My eyes filled with tears as he enacted his evil plan, seducing his victims, tugging insecurities that I know would have seduced me, too. As serious as it gets, the show remembers it’s a comedy, and you get to laugh at his demise.

As a person in STEM, I was briefly skeptical of the costumes, as most engineering interns I know stick to more mundane jeans and t-shirts. However, I’m also a sci-fi fan and cosplayer, and have more than once returned from a con wishing I could ditch my mundane “work costume.” The unique sci-fi wardrobe created by Atelier Abene captures that latent dream of mine, showing off the individual expressions of each character, bringing the fantasy world to life, and reflecting the joy of the show with bright colors and fun patterns.

The set design and props are simple, yet effective, grounding the actors in each scene while not hindering their movement, thus fitting well into the Fringe venue. Eric Michaud’s choreography was playful and impactful, and the ensemble numbers were silly and fun. Michaud took advantage of the venue and acknowledged the audience on all three sides. My favorite moment was in Gordon’s (Lavender’s) solo and the innovative use of the chair. The song itself is rather serious, but the choreography kept me laughing because this is a comedy.

The music itself, composed by Laser Malena-Webber and E. Aaron Wilson, seems innovative in the musical world. Unlike traditional musicals, you can’t identify the young ingenue by her soprano voice, nor the female villain as the alto. The parts in general seem written toward more mid-ranges, which opens the door for nonbinary actors to enter many roles without upsetting the balance of the musical arrangements. The duets are filled with beautiful harmonies. The songs “Why Aren’t You Happy?” and “Binary” convey challenging, heartfelt empathy that I think many people would find relatable. By contrast, Billie’s song “Software Testing 123” is pure joy and hilarity and Jeanneret’s over-the-top performance left me in stitches. Also, I think I need to buy paper towels.

If you’re a fan of musical comedy and nerdy fantasy, this is the show for you.

What I didn't like

For the venue, everything was right-size, but I’d love to see the show on a bigger stage with a full-size ensemble.

My overall impression

“I’ve felt like a stranger to Earth since I got here.”
The lead character Marsh and I are cut from the same block of cheese in that regard. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a musical where I’ve identified with so many characters. I’m so accustomed to not seeing myself at all. In that, I think the show has incredible power, and I love it from top to bottom.

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