Local Event: Robocop - The Musical

Michelle reviews Robocop: The Musical. I'd buy that for a dollar.

"Say Detroit sucks again.
I dare ya."
RoboCop and musical were definitely two words I never thought I would hear in the same sentence. I was intrigued to hear that local Ferndale comedy troupe Go Comedy! had put together RoboCop! The Musical and was putting on a live performance at City Theater (located inside Hockeytown CafĂ©). This was the first time I visited this particular venue, and I was pleased to discover that it’s smaller and more intimate than I anticipated. The staff was super nice as well and even helped everyone find their exact seating.

Most people are acquainted with the story of RoboCop and it’s considered a cult classic—it even has a swanky Criterion release. For the two people who haven’t seen it, RoboCop follows the exploits of Alex Murphy (Peter Weller), a cop who works for the police force in a futuristic Detroit. He gets shot up on a bungled police raid and a corporation called Omni Consumer Products (OCP) gives him a robot body and dubs him RoboCop. The film is hyper-violent but it told an interesting tale of privatization, gentrification and corporate greed.

Now, the movie is serious business but the musical version has been turned into a hilarious comedy. They do follow the plot somewhat faithfully, but it’s more like a recap than a straight retelling. In the spirit of the film Be Kind Rewind the production values are simultaneously cheesy and ingenious. In effect, the play is a “sweded” low-budget version of RoboCop and it works beautifully. I must give kudos to director Tommy LeRoy who also designed RoboCop’s costume. There is also a fully functional ED209 that walks around the stage and even dances a little bit. Ten-year-old me would have lost her mind upon seeing that.

This is a musical at heart and the tunes are well-composed and sung. Some song highlights include: I Don't Know (How to Love a Robot) and It's Not Easy Being Gay When You're a Gangster. My favorite song was the ‘90s style rap busted out by none other than Dick Jones, complete with fly girl dancers and twerking. The score is an eclectic mix with rap, classic rock and heartfelt slow ballads. While you won’t hear the classic RoboCop theme song, due to copyright most likely, the peppy and funny music more than makes up for it.

"Damn. Is that a gun in your hand or are you
happy to see me?!!!"
Sean May, who also wrote the play, makes the perfect Alex Murphy. While he doesn’t look the part, once he transforms into RoboCop, he nails the robotic movements and the voice perfectly. The writing is silly for the most part, but they do manage to sneak in some witty barbs about the current state of Detroit. They are especially unkind to Governor Rick Snyder’s decision to cut funding for the Michigan Film Tax Incentive. In a way this is apropos to the spirit of RoboCop because the original movie was meant to be social commentary on current issues. For better or for worse, RoboCop and Detroit are inexplicably linked (with a giant statue pending even).

RoboCop! The Musical is an entertaining way to spend a night out and even if you aren’t a fan of the original movie there is a lot to like. Hopefully, word-of-mouth will help spread the magic that is tale of a cop who is a man but, like, also a robot too.

-Michelle Kisner