When Return to the Forbidden Planet first rocketed onto the stage it shaked, rattled and rolled its audiences with its high-energy toe tapping music, picking up two Olivier Awards along the way. 25 years on and celebrating its anniversary it has embarked on a UK tour attracting fans to join the crew as they journey into hyperspace one more time.
Despite its longevity there’s still a lot of people who have yet to climb aboard the enterprise and see what it has to offer although the crowd who turned up to view it at the Palace Theatre on opening night had obviously been to the ‘Planet’ before!
The show starts as soon as you take your seats with the curtain already up and cast members interacting with the audience from the get go in their shiny white and silver spacesuits. Only a few raised eyebrows and most enjoyed the pre show banter, even taking the odd selfie!
Imagine The Rocky Horror Show set in space and you are not far off the mark with Return to the Forbidden Planet – although in fairness to The Rocky Horror Show they have original songs and a far more clever script. This is like one long ode to a 50s sci-fi B movie (in fact it is loosely based on the MGM flick Forbidden Planet) with a bit of Shakespeare’s The Tempest thrown in for good measure – cue lots of iambic pentameter and quotes you recognise from Will’s famous plays.
The story sees you join Captain Tempest and his crew on their voyage into space. Along the way they crash land onto planet D’Illyria where they encounter Dr.Prospero who has been stranded there with his daughter Miranda and their robot Ariel for a number of years. With Prospero’s help they get the ship back on course but the doctor has a secret potion he’s been working on –the ‘X Factor’ and there’s an angry alien monster heading their way…
Whilst the cast are all very talented (they can sing and play a number of musical instruments), unlike Dr Prospero they do not possess the ‘X Factor’ and it left me a little disappointed in parts. There is one saving grace for the show and it comes in the form of space crew member Cookie (Mark Newnham) whose guitar solo was nothing short of magical. Newnham manically rocked out and left the audience gasping for breath at what they had witnessed – I only wished he would have had more time to let them show their appreciation for it before racing on to the next part of the show.
Return to the Forbidden Planet is what it is – a jukebox musical with cheesy cues into recognisable hit songs including Great Balls of Fire, Born to be Wild and Johnny B. Goode. It’s not rocket science to see it’s a formula that works for die hard fans but unfortunately it didn’t send newbie’s like me over the moon!
Watch out for a cameo coup as Brian May appears onscreen narrating in between scenes – a nice surprise if not a slightly odd choice of roles for the Queen legend.
– Runs at The Palace Theatre, Manchester until Saturday 9th May.