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These days, musicals that use songs you already know are a bit of a cliche, but it wasn't always so.
It must have been a good twelve years ago when I first saw 'Return to the Forbidden Planet' in London, and back then, there wasn't anything like it. Still isn't, if you ask me. This is a very funny, clever, fast paced musical full of references to other things, and frankly, it rocks. I've seen it twice; once in London, once in the sticks, and if it comes your way, don't miss it.
Influence number one is Shakespeare, as the musical is based quite heavily of 'The Tempest' and uses some monstrous misquotes of Shakespearean writing for humorous effect (see my title.) Influence number two is the film 'Forbidden Planet' a sci-fi classic also based on 'The Tempest', but set on a distant world, with monsters from the subconscious brought to life. Influence number three is rock and roll, back to that later.
So, you are a passenger on a ship heading out into space, as you enter the theatre, ushers will show you to your seat, talk to you about flight safety, ak you if you've flown before on the like. Up on stage is the cockpit. The first thing you'll notice are the two drum kits, and the bank of keyboards used as the control pannels. The cast provide all their own accompaniment for songs, they can all play more than one instrument, so this alone is rather impressive. The crew are introduced, and you take off, to 'wipeout'.
Shortly, you're in trouble.
'They shake my nerves and they rattle my brains' 'These asteroids would drive a man insane'. 'They've broke the shield!' 'We'll all be killed. 'Goodness gracious.... great balls of fire'.
It is that silly, all the way through, and consquently is a lot of fun. The ship crashes on a planet, where the crew find Prospero, a mad scientist, his very attractive daughter Miranda, and a robot called Ariel on roller skates no less). one of the guys from the crew falls in love with Miranda, but she's set her sights on the captain, and a few of Prospero's dark secerts are about to catch up with him, including (cue sinister music) Monsters from the Id. Needless to say, it all works out well in the end.
Songs include 'Good Vibrations,' 'Gloria', 'The Monster Mash', ''All shook up', 'Young Girl,' 'Great Balls of fire', 'Wipeout', and many others, so it's a lively show with plenty of familair songs.
The script is pacey. If you know your Shakespeare, it's also very funny, as quote from various plays (sometimes horribly mangled) are thrown into the diologue. The tale is implausable, silly, far fetched and other good things. Consequently its a lot of fun. Its family friendly, you can take kids they will enjoy it, you can take parents, they will enjoy it too.
Last time I saw it, things were starting to change - firstly there were more references to sci-fi programs sneaking into the script, and the audience - like Rocky Horror, people are starting to dig out their costumes, so if you've got a klingon head lying about somewhere, a starfleet uniform, some Luke Skywalker kit or the like, you could perhaps wear it to this show. The other change was increased audience participation. it has a slightly 'pantomime' feel, and if it keeps doing the rounds, it could potentially end up with an audience scrip akin to that of Rocky Horror.
It's great fun, see it if you can, you get a good night out, plenty of laughs and the silliest monster effects imaginable.
FInally, early on in its life, it got the Lawrence Olivier award.