By Lynn Geyer
In 1956, thanks to MGM, a classic science fiction film exploded onto the silver screen and changed movie goers’ idea of sci-fi movies being second rate entities.
The story line of “Forbidden Planet” was loosely based on “The Tempest,” by William Shakespeare. This venture into the unknown starred renown actor Walter Pidgeon, supported by Leslie Nielsen and a fledgling Anne Frances, not to mention the first appearance of Robby, the Robot; all four were destined to continue their careers for years after.
In 1989, the musical “Return to the Forbidden Planet,” by Bob Carlton, opened in London’s East End. The story of this Olivier Award winner for Best New Musical of the year is so loosely based on the movie that only the title is similar!
In “Return,” Dr. Morbius becomes Doctor Prospero; our undaunted hero is Capt. Tempest rather than Commander Adams; and the location is on a space ship rather than the mystic planet Altair IV.
Other than that, this rock and roll opera jumps about the stage borrowing a scrap of the original here and there but keeping its own identity intact.
This show could have been titled “Fractured Shakespeare – à la cavalcade of 1950’s and 60’s rock stars.” There is within the play a quote (or paraphrase of a quote) from several of the Bard’s 31 plays accompanied by many of the golden oldies belted out by the cast of 33.
Director/Instructor Patrick Daugherty belies the proverb “Them that can’t, teach.” This show is directed as well or better than many professional pieces seen around this town and beyond!
Daugherty has chosen his cast primarily from Pierce College students; many are in the Running Start Program offered at the college, which allows high school students to take classes for college credit before graduation.
Modestly, Daugherty said this is a real team effort. He said that when choreographer Deacostia Law presented her work, which is quite good, some of the cast members couldn’t help but augment it with their own ideas.
Danny K. Marshall does the scenic design of a space ship using the full width of the Studio 320 stage. There are control panels stage right, including a transporter room, with the captain’s chair and computer brain center stage; stage left houses the 5-pierce band; various entrances are between these spaces. Marshall also does the intriguing lighting design, which includes the audience being bombarded with “space debris” in the form of floating, multi-colored, pin-point lights once they enter the intimate theatre – it really gets one in the mood while awaiting the curtain.
Guest costumer is JoAnne Kirley of Costumes, Period Inc. They range from the ridiculous to the sublime! What a great job – especially for the two-headed Bosun!
Musical Director Nate Benson also accompanies on keyboards along with Reshard Radford. John Anthony Cole is on bass; Walter Finch, Guitar; and Ivan Payne on Drums. This tight combo makes a joyful noise which keeps the audience bouncing to the well-remembered rock and roll classics.
Daugherty has amassed a cast of more than 30 people (and one robot) and manages to keep them from bumping into each other except when they are supposed to!
Many of the cast have little or no speaking parts – just a lot of moving, dancing and singing. There are three groups of “extras.” These include The Swingin’ Omnes, The Astro-Mods and Prospero’s Nightmare.
The performers in these groups are Johnny Barrett, Naomi Barrett, Sierra Bostwick, Cody Brown, Dessa Chalfant, Dalisha Ellis, Chehala Fisher, Sierra Granberg, Shayla Harris, Rebekah Hoyte, Katelyn Hummel, Chris Lampier, Deacostia Law, Brianna Legg, Jaquie Leon, Gabrielle Marshall, Kyoung No, Savannah Reams-Taylor, Elisha Salas, Lupe Sanchez, Devin Smith, Nikki Srur, Christina Tuschhoff and Cory Upton.
One of the four stand-outs in this group is Choreographer Law who has a solo special; Fisher who always has a smile on her face and puts her whole being into her dance numbers; Marshall and Srur who have principle roles as members of the crew who announce special events, among other things.
Amanda Stabbert is Miranda, our heroine who is an unspoiled child of a girl – until she comes in contact with the crew of the Space Ship Albatross – then she really takes off (metaphorically). Stabbert’s singing is in keeping with the style; her dancing is good and her acting believable.
Danielle Dunn and Stephanie Huber play the Bosun. This duo is, in fact, a double person! The pair has been joined at the body by an enormous robe, sporting one arm each and two heads! They are a stunning couple who make a perfect one. Their makeup is dynamic and their actions, words and demeanor are perfect.
Nicholle Ortiz is the Navigational Officer. Ortiz maintains knowledge of her surrounds as though she has been doing the job for years. It is easy to believe one is really in space with her guiding the way.
Addison Kelly is the robot Ariel. Kelly is electrifying in his costume of foil and fancy. Kelly’s actions are so robot-like it’s easy to think he is actually made of some unearthly material – until he professes his love for Miranda.
Christina Brewer is the Science Officer. Brewer has the best voice in the cast – she can belt out a song that can be heard in the lobby. Her acting is equal to her singing.
Forrest Nameniuk is Prospero, our heroine’s father and the unwitting villain of the piece. Nameniuk plays him to the hilt – he holds out on nothing. This fine actor delivers a character who can emote the Bard’s writings with knowledge and understanding – even when they are paraphrased.
Grant Hillard plays Cookie, the ship’s – well – cook. He is also a contender for the hand of the lovely Miranda, briefly. Hillard is a very good actor, a wonderful dancer and can really sell a song.
Ammanfil Oreta is our hero, Capt. Tempest. This versatile actor is incredible. He sings, he dances, he bounds about the stage jumping like a Masai warrior! Oreta belts out a tune with the best of them. He has never ending energy and is a joy to watch, whether acting, dancing or singing. This man is a real triple threat!
“Return to the Forbidden Planet” has a painfully short performance schedule – the show’s closing performance is Saturday, June 1, at 7 p.m. at the College Theatre Studio 320 in the Cascade Building on the Fort Steilacoom campus at 9401 Farwest Drive in Lakewood. Ticket prices are more than reasonable at $3 for General Admission and $2 for Students. Reservations may be made by calling the theatre at (253) 964-6710. Call quickly; opening night was sold out.
Daugherty said the theatre Department is going green and is not printing programs for this production, so, if you are fortunate enough to get a ticket, before leaving for the theatre, go online to www.pierce.ctc.edu/go/mobileprogram and download a program.
If at all possible, see “Return to the Forbidden Planet” at Pierce College. Take it as fact it is as good as the 1990 London production.