'Voca People' sings songs from space

It’s not every day that the works of Madonna, Mozart, Queen and other musical titans and temptresses are brought to life in a cappella splendor by eight aliens from another galaxy.

So when that day arrives, it’s best that locals seize it.

Shai Fishman, musical director of “Voca People,” which opens in The City on Tuesday, is counting on that.

Several years ago, Lior Kalfo and Fishman co-created the outlandish, inventive show, about white-clothed, ruby-lipped singing aliens from the planet Voca hoping to “refuel their spaceship” by performing the music of Earthlings — without musical instruments or sound effects, and only voices.

“It’s just different,” Fishman says. “Especially now, with shows like ‘The Sing Off’ and such, people have seen everything. By leaps and bounds, technologically, nothing is shocking any more. We’re such an immediate-gratification society, where we move onto the next thing in five minutes. So, I knew I had to do something that hadn’t been done before.”

Fishman and company go beyond basic a cappella and beat box as they move through more than 70 well-known songs, often with humor. They basically invented a new musical language, using “notes” that comprise the sounds of guitars, drums and other instruments.

Creating the arrangements was grueling, adds Fishman, describing how there is a reason for each “naga-naga-naga, deeble-deeble bow” audiences will hear.

“We’re trying to simulate something in a unique way as we create a particular sound and arrangement,” he says. “With more than 70 songs a show, we have to keep it moving. You are never going to have time to settle in on a song because we are covering the whole spectrum. That was the idea.”

Some of the ideas perhaps were embedded in Fishman’s past. He grew up in Israel, listening to soundtracks from the “Indiana Jones” movies, and watching TV shows such as “Dallas” and “Dynasty” — no doubt soaking up the crescendos in their theme songs — and studying musical layerings of Stevie Wonder and Quincy Jones.

Over the last few years, “Voca People” has surged in popularity, and is increasingly adding international tours.
Fishman thinks audiences enjoy it because “it forces people to think about how the performers are doing what they are doing,” he says. “If people keep asking, ‘How in the heck do they do that and make it sound like it sounds,’ then … we’ve done good.”

If you go

Voca People
Where: Marines’ Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays, 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturdays, 3 and 6 p.m. Sundays; closes June 17
Tickets: $49 to $75
Contact: (415) 771-6900, www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com

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