Hollywood Fringe 2019
Robot Teammate return to HFF with their best show yet.
After taking a break last year, the musical improv group Robot Teammate has returned with their fourth scripted Fringe musical, “Pockets.” They must’ve used the extra time to recharge their batteries and it shows; this new one is a doozy.
Set in the fictional kingdom of Crumpeton, a quaint kingdom with a strong yeast-based economy, we follow Bellamina Crumbledunk (Molly Dworsky), a thirteen-year-old noble daughter who’s turned to a life of petty thievery and assumes the new moniker Pockets after her mother, the Duchess (Kat Primeau), has gone power-hungry as the new reigning monarch after her husband’s gone off to war. Along the way, she meets a shady mentor Veegan (Chris Bramante) and a leader of the revolution Jim Val Jim (Dave Reynolds, who also plays the roles of the town crier and a royal aide) who longs to upend the rule of the ruthless Duchess.
The core group members of the performing Teammates, Dworsky, Primeau, Bramante, and Reynolds each give magnetic performances, but you’d never know the team’s been pared down to just five people (the aforementioned performers, plus musical director Branson NeJame). By my count in the program, there are twenty-one people on stage during this production, including the four-piece live band and it’s terribly impressive to see so many ensemble members, all excellent singers and actors, coming together to execute a unified vision of such scope for a Fringe show. Every performer is on the same page, capturing the ideal tone. Special mention to ensemble member Sam Nulman’s brief turn as “Trustworthy Tim,” who makes you wonder if there’s another winsome musical improv group hidden within their ranks waiting to bust out on their own. Does the show need all those people on stage? Probably not, but it does make for a grand experience (as well as, I’d imagine, a rehearsal scheduling nightmare for the producers).
The songs are great, with obvious nods to “Les Miserables,” but also plenty of home-grown material. Composer Branson NeJame has assembled a strong band including some beautiful cello playing by Harrison Lee. The cello is effective with transporting the audience into the historical setting and makes for wonderful underscoring during scenes. There’s also plenty of funny lyrics written by the whole of Robot Teammate. Though some songs’ lyrics can be dismissed as high-school humor, including one making a double entendre with the phrase “Wake and Bake” and another with a single entendre about peeing your pants while locked in a pillory, you can’t deny that each song is delivered with a refined bravado. Plus, those numbers are outweighed by the rest of the songs which range from downright clever (“Dueling Anthems”) to endearingly silly (“Family Breakfast”), with some fun choreography by Kat Primeau to match.
Director Paul Hungerford and the Teammates have put together a funny show with an engaging script to make what might be one of the most [spit spit] solid productions at Fringe this year. Check it out. ZACHARY BERNSTEIN