Yoshimi: Review Roundup

Kimiko Glenn

The new rock musical Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, based on the 2002 album of the same name from The Flaming Lips, has received mixed to negative reviews for its world premiere production at La Jolla Playhouse, where the show has been in development since 2007, with director Des McAnuff recently stepping in as librettist after the departure of Aaron Sorkin. The creative team includes and Wayne Coyne (book, lyrics, music), Des McAnuff (book, direction), Steven Drozd and Michael Ivins (lyrics, music), Ron Melrose (music direction), Bradley Rapier (choreography), Robert Brill (sets), Paul Tazewell (costumes), Michael Walton (lights), Steve Canyon Kennedy (sound), Sean Nieuwenhuis (video), Basil Twist (puppets), and Bill Brendle (orchestrations). The cast includes Kimiko Glenn (Yoshimi), Paul Nolan (Ben), Nik Walker (Booker), and Tom Hewitt (Dr. Petersen).

James Hebert (San Diego Union-Tribune): The inventive and at times fantastical Yoshimi … draws much of its emotional punch from the mysteries of being vs. nothingness that robots can evoke. … The production’s technology can be thrilling, especially in robot-battle scenes that masterfully calibrate elements of music, lighting, sound and visual design. And if at times McAnuff seems a bit too in love with such tech gambits as the text-message-style super-titles (which over-explain the action), he doesn’t let the show’s humanity or its central love story get crowded off the stage. That’s right: There are people in Yoshimi, too. Talented ones – particularly the irresistible Kimiko Glenn as the title warrior. … Someday our robot overlords will be writing their own musicals (their own reviews, too). In the meantime, though, we can also thank the daring and ingenuity of McAnuff … for bringing this one to vivid life.

Charles McNulty (L.A. Times): Futuristic theatrical effects are deployed like a hypnotist’s pocket watch in Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. But the real mesmerizing aspect of this new musical … is the way it sounds. Our ears are delighted at a higher level than our eyes – or our minds, for that matter. … The literary sensibility behind Pink Robots is markedly inferior to its visual imagination. This show needs a book writer, STAT. … It’s the singing of these performers, rather than their acting, that stirs up the emotions – just as it’s the haunting sound of the show, rather than its dazzling sights, that has stayed with me. If you want to go to a deeper place with Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, you’ll have to close your eyes and travel there via your own imagination.

Bob Verini (Variety): There’s electronic wizardry out the wazoo, but it’s surrounded by a thin, uninvolving storyline literalizing a lymphoma patient’s treatment into bouts of kung fu fighting. Glum, over-engineered Yoshimi is a concept in search of a demographic, much effort expended to remarkably little effect. Many tuners have book problems; this one’s problem is there’s no book. … Throughout the show, lyrics either clash with the given situation or illustrate it blandly. … The repertoire of a band famous for excitingly theatrical shows never soars on La Jolla’s stage. … You leave the playhouse not conscious of a single memorable moment of spontaneity or high spirits, which could be the biggest adversary Yoshimi has to battle.

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