Did you hear that The Flaming Lips have a new musical? Yup! It's currently playing at the La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. We saw it this weekend and we enjoyed Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots so much that afterwards we made a donation to the theater to help support their amazing work.
There is NO WAY the Playhouse is making any money on Yoshimi. This show is expensive!!!!!!!
It cost so much to develop the amazing puppets in the show. And the production is BIG! This is not cheap by any means! But, because of the support of their donors and subscribers - and thanks to their success transferring shows to Broadway - the La Jolla Playhouse is able to put on a production like Yoshimi.
A Broadway run is not guaranteed, but it sure looks good for this show! It still needs work, though, and the Playhouse is the perfect place to do that.
The show is a love story and a death story. In it, the titular character is torn between two men and torn between sickness and health - as she battles for her life against cancer.
The music in Yoshimi is soooooo good! Even if you're not a Flaming Lips fan, you will enjoy it! And, thankfully, Bill Brendle did an amazing job with the orchestrations and Ron Melrose with the music direction! Performing contemporary music that sounds modern in Broadway-type shows can be tricky. But thankfully the Yoshimi team made it seem effortless! They made a 5 piece band sound like a full orchestra, without feeling canned or mechanical.
And the puppets by Basil Twist are out of this world amazing!
The set and the way scenic designer Robert Brill transforms the stage is equally stunning. Such an exquisite use of color!
The book and plot still need some work. For example, Act 1 is super cool but things get schmaltzy and unnecessary cheesily sentimental in Act 2.
Also, there is some brief nudity in Act 1 that is gratuitous and if they removed it, the show would instantly appeal to younger audiences as well. They will be dazzled by the flying robots!
The male lead, Paul Nolan, recently played Jesus in the La Jolla's production of Superstar, which later transferred to Broadway. And while he was good in that show, he lacks the charm needed to pull of the role of Ben in Yoshimi. We would recast him for a Broadway run.
Kimiko Glenn, however, is stellar as Yoshimi!
We can't wait to see this show again and see how it's changed/improved! But a VERY GOOD start for all involved!
Hands On A Hardbody is Broadway-ready! And it was a special treat to see the new musical, based on the cult documentary, at the lovely La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego. A theater with leg room in the rows! You never get that in NYC!
We went into the show expecting to see a satire, along the lines of Book Of Mormon or Avenue Q. The documentary, after all, is about a group of colorful Texans that try and win a "hard body" truck by seeing who can win a contest to keep their hand on it for as long as possible.
The show could have gone in the direction of camp or mockery, but - instead - we were so pleased to see it be a bittersweet tale of humanity. People doing and trying and hoping and believing. A show with great laughs but also sincerity. It's a show with so much heart!
And at the center of the show's heart are three standout performances from Keala Settle, Hunter Foster and Connie Ray.
Keale Settle easily gives one of THE BEST performances we have ever seen in the theater! And we see lots and lots and lots of shows!!!
This woman was not acting. She was being! Settle so effortlessly embodied her character. She brought an infectious sense of warmth and and passion! And her voice? Wow!
She was a revelation and stole the show!
Hunter was sooooooo good too! That Foster family is just so damn talented!
Hunter played the show's antagonist, but he did it in such a way that his character was so damn likeable. You should have been rooting against him but you were rooting for! He played the arc of his character so beautifully! At the end of the show… just wow!
The man is amazing!
And the mom from The Torkelsons!!! Carly Rae!!! She was giving us some Meryl Streep fierceness!!! We just wish she had a song!
Speaking of songs, the music was written by Trey Anastasio. Yes, the dude from Phish! He and the show's lyricist, Amanda Green, did a fabulous and well-rounded job!
There are some truly beautiful and outstanding musical theater songs, pop songs and country songs in the show!
Kudos to book writer Doug Wright and director Neil Pepe, who both did a great job. Especially great were the many inventive ways they used the truck and made the show feel not claustrophobic.
Hands On A Hard Body is hard not to love and good for your body!