Sunday, June 9, 2013

RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET

Written by Bob Carlton
Directed by Stephen Pike
Musical Direction by Nicholas Griffin
Queanbeyan Players at The Q, Queanbeyan
June 7 to 22, 2013

Review by Len Power 7 June 2013



The planets must have been aligned in some special way for Bob Carlton’s jukebox musical, ‘Return To the Forbidden Planet’ to be the success it was when it opened in London’s West End in 1989.  It’s hard to believe it won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical for both 1989 and 1990, beating shows like ‘Miss Saigon’ and ‘Aspects of Love’.

It’s a jukebox musical based on Shakespeare's ‘The Tempest’ and the 1950s science fiction film ‘Forbidden Planet’ (which in turn was based on ‘The Tempest’).  The script uses quotes from various Shakespeare plays to advance the story between songs.  The songs are good ones ranging across forty years or so of the rock and roll era.

Stephen Pike, the director, has fashioned a production for the Queanbeyan Players that almost overcomes the deficiencies of the script.  On an excellent spaceship set designed by Thompson Quan Wing and the customary brilliance of Eclipse Lighting and Sound, the director keeps the show moving at a fast pace, keeping our minds off the script as much as possible.

The cast of excellent singers do more than justice to the songs.  However, there is little consistency of style in their delivery of the dialogue.  Some of the cast read the Shakespearean lines too fast with no attempt at understanding what they’re saying.  Others stood there and declaimed in an old-fashioned Shakespearean way that was just boring.  Dave Evans, who plays Captain Tempest, does get it right.  He understands what he’s saying and plays with a touch of melodrama and a constant twinkle in his eye.  We know the show is meant to be just a romp but if the rest of the cast had followed Dave Evans, it would have worked much better.

Apart from that aspect, there were good performances by Veronica Thwaites-Brown as the Science Officer with her fruity Russian accent, David Kavanagh as a very appealing Scottish Bosun, a curious role that starts off nicely but, as written, doesn’t really go anywhere much, John Kelly as Ariel, the Robot and Alicia Da Costa, who made the most of the smaller role of Navigation Officer.  She also came closest to matching Dave Evans’ performance style.

Costumes by Christine Pawlicki were very well done, especially the silver costume for Ariel, the Robot.  Musical Director, Nicholas Griffin, produced a very fine sound from his band.  It was also well-balanced with the singers.  Makeup by Janette Humphrey was imaginative and suited the costumes and characters perfectly.  Choreography by Nikole Neal was performed well by the cast, but here was a chance to come up with some original, futuristic dances, rather than the predictable routines on display here.

The music in this show and the production values make it an entertaining evening.  Just be prepared to sit ‘like patience on a monument’ through the dialogue.  There’ll be another good song along in a minute.....

Originally broadcast on Artsound FM 92.7 ‘Dress Circle’ program on Sunday 9 June 2013

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