What could be better than a fun-science-filled musical album? Nothing. Unless that fun-science-filled musical album became a musical on stage! Now that is a dream come true for The Doubleclicks‘ Teaching a Robot to Love. The musical album is the brain creation of Laser Malena-Webber, their sister Aubrey Turner and composer, musical director and producer E. Aaron Wilson. During the month of June, they are taking this musical to the stage for the Hollywood Fringe Festival.
We recently had the chance to chat with the creators, cast and crew. They shared their favorite moments and what it’s like bringing a musical album to the stage. Keep reading to see what Malena-Webber, Wilson, director Ashley Ward, producer Morgan Peters, castmembers Bonnie Gordon, Xander Jeanneret, Rob Warner, Kelby Jo McLellan and costumers Juli and Alex Abene of Atelier Abene had to share!
More information on dates and tickets can be found here!
Teaching a Robot to Love Interview
Julia Roth: How excited is everyone to be bringing Teaching a Robot to Love to the stage?
Ashley Ward: So excited! It’s such a fun, positive show with incredible music!
Bonnie Gordon: First off, I’m so excited to be doing live theater again!!!! After what we’ve all gone through these past few years, the arts are more important than ever – especially a show like this one!
Rob Warner: Oh my gosh so freaking excited. I knew little about the show before joining but I was able to listen to the album and I was obsessed before I got halfway through the opening number! I can’t wait for people to see it live.
Xander Jeanneret: SO excited! We’ve been working on this project for a little over a year, and to have the album and book come to life on stage is a dream come true!
Kelby Jo McLellan: I’m pretty stoked honestly. Especially since I’m jumping on board right at this moment, I just want to make all of the folks who have been following since the cast album proud.
JR: What challenges did you face taking Teaching a Robot to Love from a musical album to a stage production?
AW: Trying to honor the sci-fi stuff (like a sentient robot existing on stage as an entity and then going into a human body) in a way we could actually show on stage rather than just in our imaginations from listening to the album.
E. Aaron Wilson (Composer, Music Director): The biggest challenge for me was reducing our very meticulously produced score from the cast album to a piano. But in the end, the combo of Laser’s beautiful writing, Ashley’s smart direction, Eric’s [Michaud] killer choreography, and excellent performances all around by each of these wonderful cast members that makes this whole piece work so well. I feel so lucky.
JR: Let’s hear all about these beautiful outfits! Who was in charge of styling everyone?
Laser Malena-Webber: We brought in the incredible folks at Atelier Abene from New York to design our show, and they did an amazing job!!
JR: How did you decide what visual direction to take for Teaching a Robot to Love?
Juli and Alex Abene, Atelier Abene (Costumers): As far as visuals go, celebrating queer expression and joy through clothing is extremely important to us. We want the audience to get a sense of who each character is immediately with eye-catching monochrome costumes with futuristic flair. Lately, we’ve been inspired by working with incredible artists like Jemel McWilliams and Jon Batiste who bring so much joy and personality to the stage. They push the envelope by letting us play with exciting colors, textures and over-the-top silhouettes and style. We wanted to bring that inspiration from these iconic Black artists with us and apply that to the costumes of Teaching a Robot to Love!
JR: What song was everyone excited to perform live for Teaching a Robot to Love?
XJ: Personally, my favorite song to perform is “Software Testing 123”! I feel like I use my full singing range in that song, and get to just have fun on stage being campy!
BG: I love the big group cast numbers where we’re all dancing together! I think we look so fun! I’m excited to sing my solo number [Whatever it Takes] too… cause I get to go full diva and command Xander around.
RM: I may be biased, but “Advernado” is a particular bop for me. That being said, watching Kelby sing “Normal Human Party” brings joy to my heart every time. And I’m not even in it!
KJM: “Normal Human Party,” it’s the song I sang at auditions so it has a special place in my heart.
JR: What was the hardest choreography to learn?
XJ: There are tricky sections in each of the numbers, but for me, “Totally Platonic Friends” takes the cake. There’s a full dance break in the middle!
BG: Hmmm… I would say “Science at Home” because it is fast and has so many moving parts to the lyrics while we are singing – but it’s still one of my favorites to be a part of!!!
RM: “Science at Home!” It’s so fun and delightful and Eric [Michaud, choreographer] put so much character into it. I hope we do it justice!
JR: What do you like about your character?
XJ: Billie has been an absolute joy to play. Even though they end up on the ‘evil’ spectrum of characters, I think they really mean well! They function as a sparkly glue to bring everyone together, even after some tough conversations and situations.
RM: I’ll say sometimes in life you need a little push, and I hope in some way Norton is able to push the gang a little bit along their journey. Other than that I’m a huge fan of the clothes (shoutout to Abenes!!)
BG: Even though she gets carried away, I love Lavender’s ambition and dedication to her dreams. She wants to succeed so badly, and just have a job where she’s doing what she loves. She doesn’t know how to NOT be a winner. I feel like Lavender gets one of the best character story arcs in this show… even though she starts out as a bit of a bully and overly ambitious, throughout the show she learns that winning is better when you do it TOGETHER with others.
I think a lot of her bullying and over-empowering tactics come from a place of insecurity and a strong fear of failure. I could really relate to her fear of failure and tapped into that mindset when I had to play up the scenes with Mary. She sees Mary as her biggest threat and obstacle to obtaining her goals/dream job and doesn’t know how to channel that in a positive way.
KJM: I really appreciate the tenderness that Marsh has. I personally deflect with humor and sarcasm a lot but Marsh is very genuine and open and it’s nice to realize that vulnerable aspect of myself through Marsh.
JR: What was everyone’s favorite piece of the show?
XJ: All of the songs are so catchy and ear-wormy! The costumes are beautiful and chic! The dialogue is funny and insightful! There are so many moving pieces that go into an original live production, and my favorite part is seeing the hard work of so many talented people come together and make something magical.
KJM: It’s really hard to pick a favorite but if I absolutely had to, the costumes are pretty spectacular.
BG: I love working with this cast! I get to be in a show with some of my favorite people and friends. We all have such a blast working together. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I personally love all the cute scenes with Mary and Faun! They are adorable and Jessica has such great comedic timing off of Aliza’s [Pearl] lines.
RM: I love the message. There’s so much to be afraid of these days and there’s a lot of reasons to hide. But this show really shows the power that acceptance and love can have in changing hearts and minds but it’s not preachy in any way. It’s just beautiful. And it’s musical!
AW: It has changed from day to day, but right now I think it’s “Science at Home” and the reveal of Marsh in a human body!
JR: Will we be seeing Teaching a Robot to Love outside of Hollywood Fringe Festival? Maybe a US tour?
Morgan Peters (Producer): We certainly hope so! The musical has a lot of messages that we’d like to see in the world, and we would especially love to see schools or communities perform the show. Right now we’re open to all possibilities, and we’re glad we got Teaching a Robot to Love on its feet at Fringe as a starting point!
JR: What would you like viewers to take away from Teaching a Robot to Love?
KJM: Oh man, so many things. There’s a community out there for you, you just have to look for it and embrace it. The greatest thing you can dare to be is yourself. And just queer joy, around.
RM: Be who you are and find your people! Everyone has someone to love and be loved by.
XJ: There are so many good messages and themes within Teaching a Robot to Love! I genuinely hope that viewers can see themselves in any of the characters or situations, and find inspiration to get them through problems they might be facing.
BG: That Love is Love and everyone should be comfortable and happy being themselves! Also… I’m not a mean bully in real life.
AW: That love is always the answer and acceptance of people for who they are is always easier and kinder than trying to force them to be what you want them to be.
JR: Do you have plans to create another musical album, make us fall in love with it and bring it to the stage?
LMW: I hope so! Sounds pretty great, right?