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Friday, Dec 19, 2014
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Campy ‘Return to the Forbidden Planet’ is a lot of fun


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You don’t have to brush-up on Shakespeare to appreciate the sci-fi comedy “Return to the Forbidden Planet.” For every classic passage used, there’s a rock ‘n’ roll song to accompany it.

This campy mash-up of ‘60s music, ‘50s B-movie plot and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” is a lot of fun in the hands of a talented Jobsite Theater cast.

Playing through July 6 in the cabaret setting of the Jaeb Theater at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts, “Forbidden” is an imaginative recreation of the 1956 space thriller “Forbidden Planet” as well as “The Tempest,” along with a nod to “Star Trek.”

Those who aren’t familiar with Shakespeare or the original “Forbidden Planet” might be confused at first but when the music starts they can catch on fast because almost everyone knows the more than 20 golden oldies included such as “Great Balls of Fire,” “Teenager in Love” and “Good Vibrations.”

In the Bard of Avon’s “Tempest,” a disposed Italian Duke named Prospero plots to restore his beautiful daughter Miranda to her rightful place using his powers of illusion. He conjures up a storm that brings his usurping, scheming brother and others to a remote island. Things get complicated when Miranda falls in love with his brother’s son.

In “Return to the Forbidden Planet,” a spaceship piloted by Dr. Tempest (Jonathan Harrison) is lured to a mysterious planet where a mad scientist named Prospero (Owen Robertson) has created a humanlike robot Ariel (Jaime Giangrande-Holcom), a brain-enhancing “X Factor” formula and a deadly monster.

Just before the landing, Science Officer (Heather Krueger) flees the ship in a space shuttle. She turns up later as Gloria, Prospero’s defiant wife.

Prospero’s young daughter Miranda (Amy E. Gray) quickly falls for Dr. Tempest while one of the crew, Cookie (Spencer Meyers), falls hard for Miranda.

Also on the ship’s bridge are a very Spock-like Boson Arras (J. Elijah Cho) and a blue-face alien Navigation Officer (Maggie Mularz). And a in surprise role, a pre-recorded narrator who appears on a giant porthole screen is played by WFTS, Channel 28, anchor Brendan McLaughlin.

This cast excels on the many song and dance numbers and a script which shifts back and forth from Shakespeare to sci-fi jargon. Some of Shakespeare’s most familiar lines (from “Hamlet” to “Romeo and Juliet”) are “repurposed” such as this exchange:

Navigation Officer: “But hold, I have another beep.”

Captain: “A second beep?”

Navigation Officer: “Well, I’m not sure.”

Captain: “One beep or not two beeps?”

Crew: “That is the question.”

And from Shakespeare’s sonnets: “Shall I compare thee to a Barbie Doll?’

Harrison, who is front man vocalist for the power lounge band Vodkanauts, is solid as a comical cross between “Star Trek” captains Kirk and Picard and is entertaining on songs such as “Young Girl.”

Krueger, who performs with the Frankie Valli tribute show “Let’s Hang On,” delivers some powerful vocals on songs “Gloria” and “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World.”

Robertson shines on the villain’s lament “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood.” Gray rocks on “Teenager in Love” and a “Robotman” duet with Giangrande-Holcom.

Meyers has some spirited solos including “She’s Not There” and “Only the Lonely.”

The whole cast gets into “The Monster Mash” (with a “Rocky Horror Picture Show” dance number) and a comical nod to a “Star Trek” blast-off with the Venture’s “Wipe Out.”

A four-piece rock band (with a Theremin for sound effects) provides the music.

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