Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: St. Louis

Return to the Forbidden Planet
New Line Theatre

Cast of Return to the Forbidden Planet
Producer/Director Scott Miller has landed his ship and crew in a lucky bit of "counter-programming" this month: For everyone who can't get into the new movie Star Trek across the wide suburban boulevard, there's New Line's paean to classic science fiction and Shakespeare, by way of 1960's teeny bopper and soul music. Between the two venues, there's really no excuse to be caught outside in the fresh spring air with a pair of pointy rubber ears, just waiting to get beaten up.

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

Dr. Prospero: Zachary Allen Farmer
Captain Tempest: Michael Amoroso
Miranda: Tara Lawton
Cookie: Ted Drury
Science Officer: Nikki Glenn
Bosun: Philip Leveling
Ariel the Robot: Scott Tripp
Ship's Engineer: Mike Dowdy
Weapons Officer: Tawaine Noah
Navigation Officer: Kimi Short

Artistic Staff
Director: Scott Miller
Choreographer: Robin Michelle Berger
Set Designers: David Carr and Jeffrey Breckel
Lighting Designer: Hans Fredrickson
Costume Designer: Betsy Krausnick
Assistant Costume Designer: Thom Crain
Sound Designer: Robert Healey
Id Monster Designer: Pat Edmonds
Props Master: Trisha Bakula
Lighting Technician: Melissa Blair
House Manager: Ann Stinebaker
Box Office Manager: Vicki Herrmann
Graphic Designer: Matt Reedy
Photographer: Jill Ritter

New Line Band
Piano/Conductor: Chris Petersen
Bass: Dave Hall
Lead Guitar: Mike Renard
Rhythm Guitar: Patrick Swan
Percussion: Mike Schurk
Reeds: Marc Strathman

Photo: Jill Ritter

-- Richard T. Green

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