I first heard about it from a friend, You have to see Alien vs. Musical, he wrote in a Facebook post about all of the Hollywood Fringe shows he had seen. Of them, Alien vs. Musical was the one he liked the most.
And so I kept my eye on it, not with that much interest. Life was busy, and Ive seen enough parody shows to let this one pass me by.
But then it started winning awards. Best World Premiere Production, Outstanding Songwriting and The Encore! Producers Award were all presented to Alien vs. Musical.
And because they won The Encore! Producers Award theater space and an extension post-Fringe was given to them.
I purchased a ticket for their last show, figuring Id see what all the hype was about.
And I wasnt even going to go. A late-night show on Friday became an exhausting prospect for me and my girlfriend, Netflix and a bottle of wine sounded oh so much nicer after a long week.
Well, I bought the tickets, I told her. We might as well.
So we went.
An hour later the show was over and my face hurt from smiling. I wiped tears out of my eyes and went to go shake the hands of the shows writers. You have something really special, I told them. That was amazing.
The shows premise is what clenches it all together: On the Planet Musical, where everyone gets a happy ending, all of our musical heroes live. Sound of Musics Maria hangs out with Little Orphan Annie, Danny from Grease, Elphaba from Wicked and other famous musical characters. In preparation for Effie (from Dreamgirls) birthday party, Annie decides to give her that mysterious space egg she just found
The titular Alien comes from the movie series, and even a passing knowledge of Ridley Scotts Alien and James Camerons Aliens gives the audience more than enough understanding of whats about to go down.
The show works no matter what angle you approach it from. If youre a fan of the Alien series, or if you love musical theater, or you fall into that sweet spot in between (as most of the HorrorBuzz staff do), then youre in for a treat.
So what is it that made Alien vs. Musical so endearing?
For starters: the show works because it isnt Aliens the Musical.
That was the first idea, explained Steve Troop, the shows co-writer and puppet designer, as we are sitting across from each other in a bar a few weeks after the show. I was there to meet Troop as well as the shows co-writer and songwriter Erik Przytulski. The two are childhood friends who both went into creative industries. Steve is a cartoonist and Erik is a songwriter and composer. It was Eriks idea for the two to come up with a show to put up at the Hollywood Fringe.
Erik came up with a Fringe Festival formula for success, Steve said. A show needs one location, eight to ten characters, and needs to be performed in less than an hour. Thats it. Figure out a show that works within those parameters and youll have a successful Fringe show on your hands.
I asked them how the conception came to be to create this show.
The weekend that Erik told me the ‘formula’ I had bought a copy of the Alien boxed set and started watching it, Steve said. Very quickly it clicked; this is a movie with one location and nine characters. So I pitched the idea of Alien the Musical to Erik.
And I quickly shot it down, said Erik.
I asked him why.
Because I wasnt interested in making a parody. And theres no surprise when the audience knows how the story ends, he said, referring to Ripleys defeat of the aliens in both films (spoiler alert for a 30 year old film franchise).
But Steve felt that he was onto something. I pitched Erik the idea for two, three months, he continued.
And then it all changed.
Neither remembers whose initial idea it was, each crediting the other, but it was suggested that instead of Alien the Musical it became Alien vs. Musical.
And thus the seed was planted.
The initial idea was to have it be a school putting on a musical and then the Alien comes and kills them all.
But halfway through the story I wondered, Why would they keep singing? asked Erik. We couldnt find an explanation.
To solve this problem they came up with the idea of a Land of Musicals, the place where all the Broadway musicals exist and nothing bad ever happens. A place where theres always a happy ending. This, Erik knew, would justify songs being sung throughout.
Erik has written several musicals but Steve only had a passing knowledge of them. Together they came up with forty famous musical characters that Steve could recognize. From those forty they picked ten characters, such as those mentioned above, that more-or-less lined up with the characters found in Alien and Aliens.
It was enough that anyone from the musical theater world would know who they were, and those who are fans of Alien would get it, too, explained Erik.
They spent a weekend writing the outline and basic script, and then they both went back to their homes to work individually. Erik wrote the music and lyrics while Steve crafted the Alien puppets that would inhabit the world.
They found a director, Matthew Tyler, and the show was quickly cast and rehearsed, opening two weeks after the script was finalized.
Immediately the show was a hit.
Even though a press release didnt go out until their second weekend of performances, the attention they were getting kept growing from positive word of mouth. It was easy to see why.
The show is fast paced and clever, featuring great songs (that kind-of-sort-of resemble the musical hits) and has fantastic puppetry, crafting bigger and scarier Aliens as the characters start to realize just how serious this threat to their happy little world is. Alien vs. Musical is a joy to behold.
An extension beyond the Encore awards was in the works, but game over, man, game over. Due to circumstances beyond our control, the extended run of Alien Vs. Musical has been cancelled, said a post on the shows Facebook page on Thursday.
BUT the post continues. There will be ONE FINAL PERFORMANCE of Alien Vs. Musical this Saturday, August 15th @ 8pm at Theatre Asylum! This special presentation of AVM will be FREE! Yes, FREE! The line for the show will form starting at 7pm and will be first-come, first served to everyone.
If youre in the Hollywood area on Saturday I highly recommend making the effort to see this show.
But fear not. Alien vs. Musical is far from dead. Steve and Erik are talking about extending the show from a 50 minute show to a 90 minute one, making it feature length. They have been batting around ideas as to how to extend the story and are very mindful of improving upon it and not just adding filler to kill time.
I ask them if theyre worried about attracting negative attention, since the show deals with tons of intellectual property and characters.
Its all a loving parody, Erik explains. We are using original music and lyrics. Its all done from a fans perspective.
And besides, Steve smiles, if we get sued, it means people are paying attention to us.
The plan is to next take to the NY Fringe with the hope of attracting some Broadway attention.
Weve achieved all we wanted to, explains Erik. We wanted a successful Fringe run. Everything now is just a treat.
For a show with so much charm and talent, it would be a shame for it not to go the distance. Broadway success, the dream of all of the characters in the Land of Musicals, feels like it might just be burrowed deep inside of this one, waiting to burst out at any moment.