nytheatre.com review by Judith Jarosz
July 11, 2011
What do you get when you have eight androgynous a cappella vocalists wearing white suits, face paint, bald caps and really red lips, pretending to be aliens from the planet “Voca” whose spaceship, that runs on music for fuel, has crashed to earth? That would be Voca People created and directed by Lior Kalfo, with musical direction and arrangements by Shai Fishman, currently in an open-ended run off-Broadway at the Westside Theatre Upstairs. This tune-packed show is a lot of fun, but beware, if you sit near the front, you may be more involved than you planned.
In the snug yet very comfortable space, we hear a CRASH and eight confused “beings” stumble out on the stage. These are aliens, whose ship now stands on stage with no power. To get it going again, they must refuel it with energy created from music. After discovering us all in the audience, and reacting first with fright, then curiosity, then amusement, they begin to telepathically read our musical history, and recreate it to fuel their ship. Ok, why not? It’s a convenient and fun way to showcase this production, and the talent of these singers. The vocalists/aliens in Voca People spend 90 minutes treating the audience to some safe choices on an earthly musical history journey, done mostly in eight-part harmony.
Some segments are immensely entertaining, such as the one where they go quickly through earth’s musical history from Neanderthal to Lady Gaga. Other favorites for me included riffs on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” and The Doors’ “People Are Strange.” Some of the skits don’t make as much of an impact. In a scene where one alien seems to be dying and is brought back to life, it is not clear what causes the sudden illness, or why this particular alien is dying and not the others.
At one point they actually start pulling people out of the audience to see what kind of music is going on in their heads. One poor man supposedly had nothing! And imagine my friend’s delight when I was led out of my seat to have my musical head examined. Luckily my noggin came up with some classical tunes via Bach, which happens to be one my favorite musical categories. Maybe these beings really do have insight!
With the TV show Glee and all of the vocal reality shows so popular right now, the pressure is on for the singers to be top notch and these artists do not disappoint. With vocal parts evenly distributed for soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto, contralto, tenor, baritone, bass baritone, and bass, all eight performers excel. Unfortunately, they do not list the singers with their vocal category in the program, so I can only say that Ryan Alexander, Mercer Boffey, Laura Dadap, Emily Drennan, Tiago Grade, Chelsey Keding, Jermaine Miles, Christine Paterson, Gavriel Savit, and Jonathan Shew are all vocally tight, with great voices and ebullient personalities.
The stage is bare except for lighting equipment and a clever prop starship that lights up with fuel when the music is flowing. The lighting design by Roy Milo plays a huge part in this production, complimented by the sound design by Naor Ben Meir and costume design by Hana Yefet.
The friend that I took to the show said that it was the most joyful fun that they had experienced at the theater in a long time, and while I would not go that far, I have to say, it was a good time!