Regional Reviews: St. Louis
Return to the Forbidden Planet
About ten percent of the fun of Return comes from the trivia aspect, guessing which notable Shakespearean monologues are being woven into this re-telling of the movie Forbidden Planet (which, of course, came to us by way of The Tempest), while a hefty 50% of the rest comes from the expert staging of great old rock and roll songs of a baby boomer's youth, sung beautifully by the New Line cast. The remaining 40% (give or take) of the night's entertainment comes from the quirky, winning performances of Zachary Allen Farmer (as Dr. Prospero) and the others on stage. The main drawback is a second act that seems to drag for the better part of an hour, mostly due to "author" Bob Carlton's concept, hammered together without much thought for where it would all lead on the back nine.
But the first act is a pure delight, being a pastiche of Star Trek sound effects and songs that could have been heard playing on a transistor radio during the late 1960s. The action takes place on the bridge of a subtly whimsical spaceship, complete with death rays and a single little tribble nearly hiding on the set, where a terrific Michael Amoroso plays the bold (and amorous) Captain Tempest. He and his crew do a great job singing their power ballads and doo-wop numbers ("Young Girl," "It's A Man's Man's Man's World" and others), culminating with the wonderful Nikki Glenn (as Gloria) fighting off the tentacles of a space monster. The crew, singing back-up in most of the numbers, is excellent, and Tara Lawton sings well as Miranda, little-girlish in a poodle skirt adorned with a rocket ship.
After the intermission, things still seem promising as we are shown a re-cap of the action, and the performances of Scott Tripp (as a roller-skating robot) and others (like the delightful Mike Dowdy and Ted Drury) show a very high degree of comic insight. But it gradually becomes clear the show's wit and narrative have petered out. A fairly clever groaner that wraps things up also unifies the Forbidden Planet tribute with the First Folio, but it's an insufficient payoff. Before that, Dr. Prospero's long, long goodbye seems borrowed from The Rocky Horror Show, and the hand-held microphones that amplify the singers above Chris Petersen's first-rate band actually work against intimacy or spontaneity, when the plot is caught treading water.
Through May 23rd at the Washington University South Campus (formerly the CBC high school) at 6501 Clayton Road, 63105. For tickets call (314) 534-1111 or visit them online at www.NewLineTheare.com.
New Line Band