The Maverick Theater's 'Return to the Forbidden Planet' Is Silly Summer Fun

To go where no guitar has gone before

Check Your Brain at the Door
Maverick's Forbidden Planet is for fun-zoners only

Call me completely out of touch, but I never knew that the 1956 film Forbidden Planet took its basic story line from Shakespeare's comedy The Tempest. I also never knew that in the 1980s, Bob Carlton decided to create a rock musical parodying the already totally campy film. Now I do. What I probably could have told you, however, had you asked, was that the OC company that would most likely produce Return to the Forbidden Planet would be the Maverick Theater, whose operators have a penchant for taking movies and TV shows and putting them on stage. Two out of three ain't bad, or so says Meat Loaf.

Billed as a "rock & roll sci-fi adventure," Planet is an over-the-top homage to '50s futurism and '60s pop-rock anthems. The story roughly follows the film's redux of Shakespeare, but mixes in more Tempest characters (including an additional female part, since there was only one in both earlier versions), and the lines are delivered in Shakespearean tongue at least half the time—the times when the cast isn't singing such oldies as "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood," "It's a Man's World," "She's Not There" and "Gloria." And that isn't often. There are, in fact, almost 30 songs in the original version of the show, and most of them seem to be here as well.

Dr. Prospero is the genius philologist who lives on planet D'illyria with his hottie daughter, Miranda, a virginal tartlet who gets all excited when Captain Tempest and his crew make a pit stop there. We soon find out that Prospero is fairly mad, going completely nuts after his wife cast him adrift into space for . . . well, for being fairly mad. Matters get all twisty when the ship's science officer, Gloria, turns out to be Prospero's ex-wife; the ship's cook, Cookie, falls in love with Miranda, even though she's in love with Captain Tempest; and Shakespearean tree spirit Ariel shows up here as Robby the Robot Jr. to save the crew and ladies from Prospero's evil id.

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Confused? It's okay—that's how you'll feel during most of this show if you actually try to understand the story (assuming you've never seen the film, or the Bard's play). This romp is not about the story, though, and doesn't try to be. Instead, think of it as a group of kooky actors acting kookily, merely to get you to crack a smile at the least and belly-laugh (like the girl who sat in front of us) at the most. The music is fun—a drummer and a lead guitarist are nestled atop two opposing spaceship towers, and Cookie plucks away on a keyboard/stove throughout the show downstage. But the singing is fairly atrocious—except for Susan Carrillo Hall and Kalinda Gray, who not only smolder onstage physically but also deliver their classic-rock numbers like real-life pros. The guys seem to have a harder time belting out the numbers they're supposed to sing instead of joke-talking through, however, but that might be due to some technical glitches with the mics that seemed to plague the production on opening night. Whatever happened, I hope they amp it up in subsequent shows because with the staging a bit messy and the story a bit murky, all they really have are the hot chicks, the stylish set and the legendary songs—still three good reasons to warrant a ticket purchase.

Return to the Forbidden Planet at the Maverick Theater, 110 E. Walnut Ave., Fullerton, (714) 526-7070; Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 4 & 8 p.m. Through July 27. $10-$20.

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