Human Resources: A bloody, bloody hit

“In an alternate universe, this note would look very different,” writes author and director Mallory Schlossberg in the program for Human Resources: The Musical. In the wake of COVID, no group of people have had to adapt as much as the performing arts community. A year ago, this online horror musical spectacular would have taken on an entirely different form, but during quarantine, Human Resources combines the best horror tropes with the cunning ingenuity of a digital platform.

Performed live over Zoom, Human Resources boasts an impressive 17-person cast made of actors from all over the country. The choreographed dance numbers, Brady Bunch Zoom gallery, and big ensemble numbers were all polished to perfection to form a beautifully seamless show.

The show follows Emily, a young, down-on-her-luck woman, as she begins a new job at Greener Pastures — a health food company. Things quickly take a turn when Emily’s coworker doesn’t return after her company baby shower, and she is plunged deep into a world of dancing vegetables and ancient cults. But when Emily learns she’s pregnant, things become much, much worse.

Human Resources satirizes corporate work cultures, to the extreme. While (most) Fortune 500 companies don’t have a disembodied CEO that employees would kill for, Greener Pastures’ unique corporate culture is told from a strong female perspective.

“I want people to realize that the reason people (most often women) are often forced to ‘choose’ family or work is because of systems in place, and I want people to also recognize that we’re sold a message to find purpose and it’s not necessarily in order to actually benefit ourselves” shares director and author Mallory Schlossberg.

Despite the dark nature of the story, do not confuse Human Resources for a thriller. From the outlandish characters to the googly eyed celery, this show is ridiculous from beginning to end. The doo-wop love song between Greener Pastures employee Margot and the generic stockphoto representing the CEO is a hilarious opening to Act II, and wonderfully showcases an unhealthy work/life balance.

“I originally thought about writing this story as a book – but I realized that the way to make this story work was to make it as campy and off the walls as possible. The show is ultimately an allegory, so it was important to never be preachy or didactic. The more campy and satirical the ideas got, the more I realized it was ripe (pun not intended, given the material!) for a musical,” Schlossberg says.

The sharp wit of Human Resources wouldn’t cut as cleanly without the musical direction of Alexandra Smith. “I think doing the music I clocked anywhere from 500-600 hours of writing time over the last 7 months,” she shares. “At the time I joined, I was not expecting this to turn into the project that it did. It was an opportunity to learn something new and exciting, and I truly believed I would never get another shot at doing this. So I took the leap and watched this show come to life.”

Though Smith recalls the rehearsal process fondly, she acknowledges the difficulties of performing on a digital stage. Quarantine meant that none of the cast or production crew could meet in person; the entire musical was virtual from start to finish.

“Tech and production teams are often the unsung heroes of any production, but they had to rethink everything and solve a lot of creative problems. From audio to video to figuring out how to call the show and cues to communication to design…there’s a lot involved.  Doing a virtual musical is so risky, and it was important that I constantly was communicating that it was worth the risk and that it was definitely going to work. I think not being in the same room as the other artists during rehearsal was tough, as well, although we figured it out,” Schlossberg says.

“Teaching music was the biggest challenge. It was new music so no one’s heard it before and has any concept of what it is. The part that brought me the most joy was when I got to hear the cast’s voices coming in for the recordings and I got to hear the chords for the first time….it was just magic,” Smith adds.

Despite the challenges, Human Resources: The Musical is a bloody, bloody hit. Schlossberg recently added another weekend to their performance schedule to accommodate the demand. Quarantine has made it abundantly clear that audiences miss live theater.

“The BEST part was hearing from people how this show made them feel like they were seeing live theater again. This production – given its virtual nature and the state of the world right now – ended up being a testament to the power of live theatre,” Schlossberg says. “As a writer – and a performer – your job is to give. So knowing that we were able to do that really means the world to me.” 

Performances of Human Resources: The Musical run through December 20, 2020. If you want to be a part of something bigger, purchase tickets on their website here.

W.F.

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