Monsters Song

Reviewer: Kristine Gotham

Venue: Historic Masonic Temple of Bay City

Vanishing Elephant Players continued their 2023-2024 season last evening at the Historic Masonic Temple in Bay City with a performance of the rock musical, Monstersongs, written by Rob Rokicki.  This show was in a word, AMAZING!  

Starting with the very first song, the fourteen actors sounded like a cast of 50.  They tore the roof off the place!  Each singer had such a strong voice that blended perfectly with the performer next to them. There is very little to no set, the characters/monsters create the scene, and invite the audience in to understand what their life is like, misunderstood by those around them, longing to fit in, or resigned to being on the fringe and acting the way everyone expects of them.

Adrian Kidd introduces each monster, echoing what everyone believes about the monsters, reiterating why they respond the way that they do.

After the opening song, the Mad Scientists (Missy Lewis Hobart and Brady Katshor) sing of the baby they have created in “Monsterbaby”.  While creating the baby was their desire, they never expected him to be a monster, a terror to the public. Maybe they never should have brought him to life.

Next to open up is the Mummy (Cameron Plarske).  In his song, “Unravel”, he reveals that if one were to remove his bandages they would find that his heart is nothing but “dust and ash”.  He feels deeply and wants relationships but he realizes that there is nothing inside that anyone would be drawn to.

Medusa (Danessa Hellus) steps up next, singing “Say Goodbye”.  She is lovely and wants nothing more that to be involved in a loving relationship, but each time she even looks at a man, he turns to stone.  How is she supposed to have someone to love if they can’t even look at one another?  Danessa serves double duty in this production.  Not only is she playing Medusa, but she is also the Makeup Designer, helping to bring each monster to life through color, shadow and contrast.

Erica Tatum takes the stage next as the Troll.  The Troll sings of one who has resigned themselves to being what everyone thinks.  They live, “Down and Under”, scaring people who cross the bridge and eating the local goats.

The Vampire (Elise Williams) and the Zombie (Elliott Bell) each desire to consume the man of their dreams.  “Blood and Brains” feed each of their desires.  In the end they decide to split him in half, with each getting her fill.

The doctor creates the monster but the idea behind the masterpiece comes from Igor (Rodney McFarland).  Igor makes “The Plans” but he never gets any credit for them.

The final song of the first act is “Right Through You”, sung by Avery Weller, as the Ghost.  The Ghost remembers loving and being loved, being seen, but now, she just goes right through.  She is just a fleeting feeling, a memory that is fading as each day passes.

The Dragon (Sam Comeau) opens the second act.  His father, society, all expects him to fly through the night, breathe fire and destroy everything in his path.  But the Dragon just wants to fly away, to be something else, but he will do as he’s told, “Reluctantly”.

The Doppelganger (Brightyn Henika) says “I’m Sorry”.  He likes the girl, longs to spend time with her and have a relationship but knows by the end of the night, one of them will be gone, and it won’t be him.  Brightyn adds a layer to this character by playing the guitar as he sings and moves about the performance area.

The Witch (Erin Whitfield) declares that “Hell Hath No Fury”.  She chooses to act the part she has been cast, living up to the fairy tale image of a witch.  The blame lies not with her but with the one who cast her as the villain and themselves as the hero.  They’ll be sorry in the end.

There are “Footprints” in the snow.  The legend of the Yeti (Brady Katshor) and the Sasquatch (Dave Ryan), has drawn people to the woods for years, each hoping to catch a glimpse of the monster in the flesh.  The Yeti and Sasquatch are real but they just want to be left alone, to live in the woods and to love each other.  Dave Ryan serves three roles in this production, as the Sasquatch, the keyboardist for the entire show, and also the Music Director.

Adrian Dodd steps out of her role as narrator, to take on the roll of Dr. Kidd.  In “Silver Bullet”, Dr. Kidd realizes that there is no easy answer to that which plagues you, you must find it within yourself, fight and claw to get what you want, to survive.

The entire cast comes together in the end to join the Mad Scientists in “It’s Over/Return of Monsterbaby”.  While they have taken this time to try and explain who they are and what they want, they realize that the myths hold true and people are going to believe what they believe.

After seeing this production, you might find yourself taking a second look at the “monsters” of fairy tales and reconsidering whether you should be afraid of them or try to understand who they are on the inside.  The actors bring these characters to life with great heart and powerful songs.  You do not want to miss this show.  Monstersongs is on stage at the Historic Masonic Temple, April 5-7 and April 12-14.  Tickets can be purchased online.

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