ROSE BOWL ADJUDICATION
NAME OF COMPANY:ZENITH YOUTH THEATRE COMPANY
NAME OF PRODUCTION‘RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET’
VENUE:Kingswood School Theatre, Bath
DATE:7.30 pm on 23rd July 2016
Return to the Forbidden Planet is science-fiction musical, with a nod to The Tempest and other works by Shakespeare, set to fifties and sixties music, and this interesting mix merged together surprisingly well.
As we entered the auditorium, as ‘passengers’ on the spaceship, we were greeted enthusiastically by members of the crew and after settling in our seats, we were given polarity reversal flight emergency drill as part of the pre-performance safety notices. The plot is simple. The audience members are passengers on a spacecraft. Lift off was powered by the driving drumbeat of “Wipe Out.” A mysterious power brings the space ship to an uncharted planet. Here we met Prospero which provided an opportunity for “Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” by his wife, Gloria, who just happened to be the science officer on this space ship, and the subject of the song” Gloria”.
Zenith’s production was very much focused on the fun and feel good vibe. Visually, very cleverly conceived, with a somewhat kitsch charm reminiscent of 60s sci-fi movies and TV, it had a brilliantly executed monster invasion accompanied by eerie green lighting that played on the imagination.
The set provided a lavish sized spaceship, amalgamating Next Generation with Original Star Trek, with whooshing air powered sliding doors and smoke machines representative of the mysterious and ethereal D’Illyria beyond the door. The various control stations protruded out into the audience beset with screens flashing their coloured lamps, which, with creative technical lighting effects, enhanced the whole show. The contrast of the hi-tech and the tacky, with flashy lighting and LED added to the mood and atmosphere. There was a vast array of special X-Factor moments that gave an intergalactic yet trippy ride. The lighting was such an essential aspect of the co-ordination of the show, containing no less than 22,000 lights, with LED bars in the light boxes, very effective use of the LED ropes, MAC 500’s, Strobes, LED and disco PARs which were also onstage and out front. The cues were plentiful, and as the director explained to me, there were 35 cues just for the opening!
All lighting and sound cues were well prompted, and the sound was well balanced throughout, with only a few minor mic issues.
The multi-talented young cast owned this fabulously camp show with unbelievable energy and the audience were served a ‘monster mash-up’ not only of old pop and rock hits, but of Shakespeare’s even more archaic verse, such as “What light through yonder airlock breaks?”
Costume designers, Joel White and Scott Rogers, varied design from 1950s and 1960s style to Hollywood rock chick. The costumes evoked the B Movie Sci-Fi films and television series, giving a sense of nostalgia. The props and sound-effects were reminiscent of Dr Who and therefore were great fun in this context. The colour theme was a striking red and silver and the demarcation of rank and function was easily identified by the use of variant ion in the crew’s appearance, employing shimmering fabrics, uniform designs and hairstyles. Cookie, especially was immediately recognisable by his silver chef’s hat and cam digger style trousers. The make-up was highly effective and evocative of David Bowie’s Spaceman. The robotic Ariel was like a cross between an old fashioned Cyberman, and an American Football style Ken Doll.
Perched high on the bridge, was Musical Director/Tenor Sax, Roy Page, who together with the band entertained us with classic hit after hit. Roy Page worked hard keeping the band’s volume under control from the full choruses right through to the quieter solo vocals. The music punctuated and propelled the plot. It was a jukebox full of lively numbers, just some of which were “Wipe Out”, “Great Balls of Fire”, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”, “Good Vibrations”, “Young Girl”, “She’s Not There”, “All Shook Up”, “Shake Rattle and Roll”, “Monster Mash”, “Mr Spaceman” and “Robot Man”. There was something undeniably indulgent about huge hits like these being played and sung live, that you could bop along to.
Below the band, the 48-strong cast, under the direction of Scott (Buck) Rodgers who has once again proved himself a strong interpreter of material, drawing the maximum amusement and pathos from the script and strong performances from his cast, gave the audience a fun flight into an imaginary world. The meta-theatrics applied gave more depth to the storyline as we both laughed at and empathised with the characters. During this performance, the majority of the cast maintained their American accents well, though, just occasionally, the dialogue was a little indistinct. At the opening, some important information was lost outlining the plot and was slightly hurried in delivery. Even though the energy was frenetic, and it is quite a task to take on the complexity of Shakespearean language and Sci-fi, just occasionally the pace in delivery needed to slow slightly at key moments, adhering to the metre and inflection when required.
Mostly in blank verse, the cast were more than capable handling Shakespeare both invented and authentic which, in the script, was cleverly tweaked to fit the sci-fi scenario, including some outrageous word-play. The majority understood and related to the archaic style text; however, Caitlin Mazza really knew how to use the colour in Shakespeare’s verse and prose, and utilised proper technique even during this parody’s absurd excesses.
All the principals had been well rehearsed in their various roles by Director Scott Rogers, along with assistants Karen Messer, Joel White and Sabrina Messer, and were given an opportunity to explore their own back stories. They were well supported by a large, vocal chorus with some outstanding performances courtesy of the main crew.
The cast obviously thoroughly enjoyed singing the memorable numbers, and as always with Zenith, the singing showcased the vocal range and harmonies of the youth group, giving the whole show an infectious spirit. They immersed themselves in their characters, taking cues from the lyrics to reflect emotion and to relate the story’s period setting.
Choreographers, Julie Dallimore and Delia Lee, had devised some great 50’s and 60’s moves for both the principals and chorus, which visually enhanced the evening’s performance. The audience enjoyed the homage paid to Grease, The Rocky Horror Show, West Side Story, Beach Boys, The Kinks with the Rock ‘n’ Roll, bebop, swing, jive etc, and this all added to a most enjoyable evening’s entertainment. The finale was very energetic and paid tribute to the cast’s hard work and spirited performances. The dancing helped to move the action along, complemented and reflected the mood and atmosphere. However, it would have eased the congestion on the main stage if some of ‘the crew’ had taken their curtain calls on the command decks either side of the main stage.
Molly Griffin gave a good performance as the Newsreader appearing on the projection for prologue, interval and epilogue, giving well-paced and clear announcements.
Ed Corbishley (Captain Tempest) perfectly encapsulated the square jawed, emotionally constipated, slightly wooden hero; who was however completely in command of his crew with a fine voice and noble body movements.
Lucas Porter (Dr Prospero) gave a great physical performance as the classic mad scientist with gravitas; channelling Lear and Rik Mayall, a great combination! He commanded the attention of the audience with a simple wiggle of his eyebrows and prehensile mouth. He had immense stage presence and a fine voice too, delivering one of the most hypnotising and original versions of “Shakin’ All Over”. His strange semi-Victorian showman attire sat curiously well amongst the sea of space patrol red and silver, and Lucas Porter certainly understood the need to be “odd”. The performance became more manic, and energetic as time passed, which ultimately led to a heart-breaking farewell as he succumbed to his predicament.
Maisie Humphries was delightful as Dr Prospero’s daughter, Miranda. Miranda made subtle voice changes during her musical sequences, hinting at the woman ready to stop being a girl, but she mostly played Miranda as an innocent fifties pop kitten.
Caitlin Mazza commanded the stage as the feisty Science Officer, later revealed as the pneumatic Gloria, and gave a carefully considered performance, and a solid thread of continuation throughout the show, this was completed by a fine contralto voice.
George Miles stole the show as the lovelorn teenager- in- love Cookie who belted out She’s Not There, with passion and pathos in equal measure. His physical stumbling gate echoed his juvenile longing for Miranda.
Sam Feirerabend was engaging as the wise-cracking robot, hidden beneath armour plating made from rows of CD’s, an American Football helmet and attire, who ended up “stoned” on mind-bending drugs. One’s mind boggles at the method acting needed to perform that! The robotic voice and movement performed with perfect co-ordination gave this performance a sense of realism and the audience truly believed in this cute robot.
Harry Dallimore kept watchful eye as the Navigation Officer, and Molly Dallimore’s Bosun delivered some bad jokes nicely.
The main crew were well supported by the navigation, maintenance, security and cabin crew with both their actions and fine voices. From the crew’s amusing in-flight information and the amazingly effective choreography of the Wipeout take off routine, right though to Miranda’s deliciously camp Mr Spaceman, with a fantastic performance from the male chorus line, the audience found themselves transported to another world. All the songs were sung well with good diction, and feeling, which together with the well-choreographed movements made it a very enjoyable evening of entertainment.
All the talented and energetic cast should be extremely pleased with this vibrant production, and they provided first-rate contributions both in music and drama.
Highlights included a moving rendition of ‘Man’s World’, in which Gloria demonstrated her vocal talents, and a powerful rendition of ‘Good Vibrations’ from Ariel, Captain Tempest, Dr Prospero and the chorus.
This production moved along with great pace and enthusiasm by the entire company. Against a visually stimulating set and at times an interactive experience – somewhere between Space: 1999, Lost in Space, a rock festival stage, a Disney simulated ride, (emphasised courtesy of the bass) come Vegas – the timeless story plays. The low-tech gadgetry, steam, Starfleet style cylindrical chairs, and the shuttle-craft were all part of the period charm, and with the efforts of the enthusiastic audience, the reverse polarity was “fully operational”.
The cast breathed new life into this cult classic and managed sharp performances, dynamic interaction between instrument, text and performance, lively choreography and good singing with the band’s instrument expertise. The cast used their whole bodies to give expression to the musical and dramatic extremes of their characters. The eyes and expressive faces constantly squeezed value out of the material and performed it with exuberance and commitment. The ‘space pace’ was full throttle at all times. A special mention must go to Charles Hollingsworth who appeared to be possessed by the King himself – Elvis Presley, along with the quivering lip!
As concepts go, hurtling Shakespeare’s words light years into the future via a cult B-movie and setting them to a backdrop of rock n’ roll music, the idea behind Return to the Forbidden Planet, is a bonkers one, but one that really rocked. The musical content certainly reconnected the mature members of the audience with a carefree time and introduced new generations to the music, which celebrated the post-war era.
Many thanks for a most enjoyable evening (and allowing my mother to be a 60’s teenager again) and for your kind hospitality. I look forward to seeing you again in the future.
Return to the Forbidden Planet
Zenith Youth Theatre Company
Thursday 21 July 2016
Reviewed by Petra Schofield – NODA SW Rep. District 10
Thank you for your invitation to join you for the summer musical – Return to the Forbidden Planet. It was a pleasure to see such a large audience supporting the huge cast and once again Zenith were on fine form from the outset.
There was great enjoyment being had from those cast who were performing outside the venue, their characters were well defined which allowed great interaction with friends who were trying hard to talk to the cast – well done to them for holding role and not being distracted.
The theatre preset inside the auditorium was very impressive both from a structural and technical perspective. The use of the space was good throughout the show – the constant switching of personnel and the various uses of the different levels allowed for a lot of movement and energy from the cast; the band were well poised to see the action and be part of it. As always there were in fine tune and under the leadership of Roy Page seemed to relish every moment of the score.
The smoke occasionally must have been a working hazard but certainly didn’t seem to quell the spirit!
Unfortunately the hologram proved a little temperamental but once working did a fine job.
The lighting design (Luke John Emmett) was both well planned and executed. The laser trick was nicely handled as well and the many states needed to keep the action moving on the static set. This was a vibrant and rather disco like setting which complemented the costumes well. The era of the music was captured in a fun way with the costume design (Scott Rogers and Joel White) there was a hint of times gone by whilst everyone remained looking futuristic with a hint of burgundy and silver.
The direction was slick, the overall impression was very cinematic which ensured the pace never dropped and characters were able to convince despite the lack of depth in the script. That is not a criticism of the production; the focus is clearly on linking the songs whereas the witty use of Shakespeare quoted correctly and more often purposefully incorrectly provides entertainment for those who know the bard well and could fully enjoy the absurd nature of the show.
The choreography (Julie Dallimore and Delia Lee) was as usual outstanding; the ability to get such a huge team to tap an opening number is a true achievement and no doubt the legacy of many past excellent productions and training. The numbers were wholly inclusive whilst there was the option for those more experienced to take a lead.
The cast was strong. The vocals for all were very good but that must be said with a special nod to George Miles as Cookie. This was an extraordinary performance which encapsulated all things about the era of the music and set the bar very high. A faultless and seemingly limitless range and control gave the numbers such integrity and finish, hugely engaging at all times even when not involved in the immediate dialogue.
Captain Tempest – Ed Corbishley
This was a well measured and mature performance. Commanding and strong to keep the action moving as well as enjoying some of the humour; it was also well sung with good control
Dr. Prospero – Lucas Porter
A good performance and very well sung. This is a hard role to pinpoint, the humour was well handled and the dialogue was clear. A strong character with good relationships to others, unfortunately we missed the first number on the hologram but it was nevertheless a good vocal.
Ariel – Sam Feireabend
This was a lovely quirky role and the physicality of it worked very well for you. The singing and acting was strong as was the characterisation. The costume was great fun and provided a very complete visual image whilst the sound and lighting team was spot on with all visual effects.
Science Officer – Caitlin Mazza
This is an outstanding voice and the vocals were powerful, controlled and clear. The characterisation and dialogue was equally strong this was a mature and engaging performance, clearly a very talented young lady.
Bosun Arras – Molly Dallimore
This role, alongside the navigator is a difficult one. It demands attention at all times and endless acting in several scenes to fulfil duties without dialogue or being featured. This was a strong cameo and the focus was excellent. The character was clear and vocals were also very good.
Navigation Officer – Harry Dallimore
As with the Bosun, your focus and relationship to the duties etc was very good. The dialogue and vocals were strong and this was a good performance of a hard role. The pod chairs gave it a great touch too.
Miranda – Maisie Humphries
A well sung and well acted performance which was well developed throughout the show. The youthfulness of Miranda and her naivety was clear whilst you were able to bring a good personality to the character.
Newsreader – Molly Griffin
A good clear delivery and well focused performance.
As usual Zenith presented themselves as a vibrant, talented team all of whom were clearly fully committed to their individual roles and responsibilities. There was a real maturity of performance which was a pleasure to watch and all clearly appeared valued and included in this large production.
Thank you for the invitation, it was a visual feast and I appreciate there is a massive team behind the scenes that make this appear so straightforward and seamless. Congratulations on what was clearly a winning formula and I have no doubt the hologram gremlins would have been sorted before the next performance.
Very best wishes
NODA SW Representative – District 10