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December 08, 1947
December 19, 2006
THE BRAIN FROM PLANET X is a hilarious, wacky salute to both B-horror movies and musical theatre. The spoof musical was originally produced at Los Angeles City College Theatre Academy, and continued on to a successful run at The New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2007. With music and lyrics by Grammy-nominee Bruce Kimmel and book by Kimmel and screenwriter David Wechter, this sci- fi send-up has been compared to THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW and LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS.
THE BRAIN FROM PLANET X tells the story of an alien invasion, circa 1958. A Brain and its two alien cohorts, Zubrick and Yoni, arrive on Earth to take over the San Fernando Valley, starting with the happy nuclear family, the Bunsons. Little do they anticipate the wily resistance of local inventor Fred Bunson, his doting wife Joyce, and their lovely daughter Donna. But the aliens will not be deterred on their quest to take over the entire planet and destroy the family unit! Along the way, we encounter such obligatory characters as the military leader General Mills and his adjunct, Private Partz; Joyce's dying-but-clever octogenarian father, Professor Leder; and Donna's amorous beatnik boyfriend Rod. 1958 was never this much fun!
"A suburban family is forced to save the world from a band of aliens intent on taking over—all with catchy music and clever lyrics," says critic Pat O'Brien.
This bright, zany musical, complete with soft rock; 1950s jazz; patter songs; striptease music; vaudeville revue and even a socko, Broadway-style tap dance number, is sure to enthrall audiences everywhere!
Vocal Range of Characters:
Written By: Bruce Kimmel
Here are some thoughts about THE BRAIN FROM PLANET X, and some tips that may aid you. I’ve directed three productions of the show, each with different casts, and in each production, though the staging has remained the same, the actors all brought really interesting things to the characters, and David and I even made some adjustments to the script based on those interpretations. The fun of this show is to let your imagination run wild.
Some things we learned along the way:
THE CHARACTERSThe actors should not make fun of their characters. In a spoof, it’s easy to go that route, but with this show we’ve found that it doesn’t help the comedy at all, because the audience then has nothing to invest in or hold onto, and, as silly as it seems, we’ve found that it’s needed. We also found that the straighter that Fred and Joyce are played, the funnier it is – straight as in that Father Knows Best and Leave It To Beaver and Robert Young and Doris Day sort of way.
Fred’s a dreamer – an endlessly positive dreamer – even when he’s faced with no one wanting to hear about his inventions, or worse, when he’s faced with a wife who’s suddenly not the wife he knew he shouldn’t get too negative.
Joyce, too, is there for her husband, loves what he says, loves what he invents – he can do no wrong. Once she’s alienized however, she becomes his worst nightmare. She shouldn’t be played as an “alien” when she’s zapped – in other words, not robotic. I like to describe her as Joyce Gone Wrong – she’s still Joyce, she just isn’t having any of that 1950s wife lifestyle anymore.
As for the aliens, Zubrick, Yoni, and The Brain, as outrageous as they may be, they, too, have wants, desires, and needs. They may be obvious wants, desires, and needs, but they have them. Same with Rod and Donna, General Mills, and the rest of the characters. But have fun with them, especially the aliens.
“FEEL-O-RAMA”Some specifics that may help you: setting up the Feel-O-Rama first gag. The audience member is, of course, a cast member. You’ll need to save one seat for every performance, and your cast member should be dressed in a casual way, perhaps slacks or khakis and a sweater, because once he joins the actual play his clothing has to have a 1950s feel. Once the kiss is over, the cast member stays seated until the ensemble enters for the first time in the title song – at that point, he jumps out of his seat and jumps up on stage, joining his fellow cast members.
THE BRAINWe originally wrote The Brain as sort of a Borscht Belt kind of character, like a Jack Benny or a Henny Youngman – but it can be played many different ways.
In that first production, we used a huge Brain head – you never saw the actor’s face at all. He wore a black robe and when he played against a black background he really did look like a floating Brain – complete with glasses. In the two other productions, because we had well-known actors playing the role, we built a brain head that allowed us to see the face of the actor. Both ways worked, and I’m sure there are other ways to do it, too. Be creative!
THE SETSAnything goes. As you probably have figured out, THE BRAIN FROM PLANET X is an affectionate send-up of cheesy 1950s sci-fi movies. Watch some of them – I recommend Plan Nine From Outer Space, The Brain From Planet Arous, Catwomen Of The Moon, and there are many others. Check out the sets. They’re usually made of cardboard and spit.
In the three productions I’ve done, we’ve had three completely different kinds of sets. In the first, we were in a very large theater and our sets were fantastic – we used a large wagon for the patio of the house and that unit turned around and became the interior of the spaceship. The house side was very 1950s and realistic, the spaceship side was total cheese, with all manner of switches and gizmos and other silliness. We had other fun set pieces in that production, and it all moved very fluidly – fluidity is what you want. The show begins in limbo and then things move in and out as needed.
In the second production at the New York Musical Theatre Festival, we couldn’t really have sets, so we used projections and set pieces – that worked okay, too. And in the third production for the Los Angeles Festival of New American Musicals, we were in a small theater and the set designer came up with a wall that had three doors – one for the poorly-working spaceship door, one big door that went up and down (used for the entrance of The Brain), and another door that became the entrance from the house to the patio. The wall was white and projections were used to establish where we were. It, too, worked just fine. But, anything goes. We just tried to keep the Earth stuff real, and we went nuts with the alien stuff – funky ray guns, silly switches that do nothing, a lot of gizmos that have no point at all.
COSTUMESAgain, we kept all the Earth stuff real, and had grand fun with the alien outfits. Yoni, especially, should go from her alien outfit to a series of more and more outrageous 1950s Jayne Mansfield-type costumes – leopard skin pantsuits, clinging gowns, whatever.
THE BRAIN TAPThis is one of the biggest laugh-getters in the entire show. Here are some tips: We found that older people are funnier. Younger people tend to try to be funny, and that’s absolutely what you don’t want. We scoped out the various audience members before the show, and during act one I would always tell Zubrick to choose the person I thought would be really uncomfortable and awkward – that’s what works best, someone who’ll be slightly embarrassed – or really embarrassed, the kind of person who looks like they’d be praying “not me, not me.” That’s the guy you want.
Also, we’ve written one example in the script of how to say the mark’s name – if, when asked his name, he says, “Uh, Phil” then that becomes his name throughout the bit: Uh, Phil. We had one guy in New York who, when asked his name, said, “Oh, crap, they want my name.” That became his name for the entire bit – “Oh, crap, they want my name is the quintessential Earth speciman.” Usually people will stammer or mumble as they’re telling you their name, so listen carefully and be sure to repeat that for the entire bit.
The Voice-U-Lator answers are, of course, all pre-recorded, as is the opening narration of the show, so choose an actor with a good voice to do that.
THE BANDIn the original production in the large theater, we had the band onstage, on a platform above the action – that’s my favorite way to do the show. But because of space limitations, the band was off-stage for the subsequent two productions.
Anyway, those are some thoughts – basically just have FUN, but remember the show, as silly as it may seem, and as weird as it may get, has a plot and characters and you want the audience to be involved with them – spoofs are hard and we learned early on in our very first reading that a spoof wasn’t enough – we needed a real plot, real stakes, and some people to root for.
Best of luck with the show, and remember: The time is nigh.
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- ORCHESTRATION PACKAGE (5 BOOKS)
- 1 – PIANO CONDUCTOR SCORE
- 1 – REED (Alto Sax, Tenor Sax, Flute, Clarinet, Bs Clarinet)
- 1 – ACOUSTIC BASS/BASS GUITAR
- 1 – DRUMS: Trap Set, Toms (High and Low), Tam-Tam, Bells, Mark Tree, Wood Block, Wind Chimes, Police Whistle, Triangle, Tambourine [Mallets, Sticks, Brushes]
- 1 – SYNTHESIZER
- REHEARSAL SET (22 Books)
- 2 – PIANO CONDUCTOR SCORE
- 20 – LIBRETTO-VOCAL BOOK
- PRE-PRODUCTION PACK
- 1 – PIANO CONDUCTOR SCORE
- 1 – LIBRETTO-VOCAL BOOK
Singing-dancing ensemble of Townspeople, Newscasters and Aliens
Townspeople, Newscasters and Alien Tappers
THE BRAIN FROM PLANET X takes place in the San Fernando Valley, California, U.S.A. during the summer, circa 1958.
Fred and Joyces Backyard
The Front Seat of Rods Car, Makeout Mountain
A Farmers Porch
An Unprecedented Joint Military Conference
Inside and Outside the Spaceship
Around the Town
General Mills Tall Platform