It's like Dreamboats and Petticoats, for Star Wars fans... but this came first. It's the West End musical that opened at the Cambridge theatre in 1989 and won Best West End Musical at that year's Olivier Awards - beating Miss Saigon.... that in itself is quite bizarre but nothing can quite prepare you for 3 hours of Shakespeare's The Tempest set aboard a spaceship.
The storm, a meteor shower, causes them to land mysteriously on the planet D'Illyria where they meet mad scientist Doctor Prospero, who has been marooned on the planet - the story continues to the plot of The Tempest and manages to stall what would otherwise be a decent concert.
Rodney Ford's set is interesting enough, but after three hours is a little static, cast tend to be just stood around, or playing a trumpet in the background but musically, the production impresses. Mark Newnham particularly shines as Cookie and Joseph Mann is humorous as robot Ariel. Sarah Scowen is in fine voice as Miranda and Queen guitarist Brian May appearing on a screen as the narrator is an added highlight.
Return To The Forbidden Planet may have paved the way for other actor-musician musicals (of which there is now an abundance) and similarly dystopian musicals such as We Will Rock You but the success of the more modern musical relies on less cringeworthy ideas of sci-fi than a robot that looks rather like the Tin Man, hairdryer guns and the batting around of an inflatable ball. Musicals have moved on but Forbidden Planet and it's core audience haven't - they love it and there's a lot for them to love. The musicianship is excellent, vocals are top-notch but the production boasts little to impress or engage a new, younger audience. It's ultimately tacky, but a full standing ovation at the end cemented the fact that an audience have come, had fun and enjoyed themselves.
At Birmingham's New Alexandra Theatre until Saturday 31 January. Tickets here.
Cast List: Steve Simmonds, Sean Needham, Christine Holman, Greg Last, Mark Newnham, Jonathan Markwood, Joseph Mann, Sarah Scowen, Georgina Field, Callum Hughes, David Heywood, Brian May, Hannah Howcroft.