Return to the Forbidden Planet

Date 25th October 2017
Society Wetherby Musical Theatre Group
Venue Wetherby High School
Type of Production Musical
Director Christine Knill
Musical Director Nick Eastwood
Choreographer Rebecca Burton


Author: Christine Castle

It was a great pleasure to be asked to cover this production for Terry Harrison - he will have been sorry to miss it!

The story of the show is a quaint mix of 60's 'pop' classics and dialogue drawn from Shakerpeare's plays - although loosely based on 'The Tempest', don't be put off by the thought of endless Shakespearean soliloquies - it's fun and a 'send-up' from the off! There is audience participation as well - when Captain Tempest needs 'reverse- polarisation' at one point, the entire audience is seen wafting the tops of their heads - don't ask why, just get carried along by the fun! The spaceship in question, on a routine mission patrolling the galaxy, pulls in an unusual star - occupied by a mad Professor Prospero (played with elegance and style by Mike Earle) and his daughter, Miranda - an engaging performance by Hannah Gray. Captain Tempest, played by Jono Wells, is younger in years for the part, but manages to command the stage with verve and a fine singing voice. His Science Officer (Catherine Hopkins) played her part with aplomb, as did Ariel, the Robot, (Emma Kennedy). I hadn't seen a female take this part before but it made no difference - her sense of comedy and rendition of the Connie Francis hit 'Who's Sorry Now' was spot on and beautifully delivered. James Gray played the 'put upon' ship's cook, Cookie, with great gusto - his 'Great Balls of Fire' song had the audience tapping their feet - very well done. The Bosun and Navigation Officer (Emma Oxtoby and Pamela Britton) manned 'the bridge', sporting identical costumes and red bobbed wigs with a real feel of the 60's and also sang well. Simon Burdett was the Newsreader on video. The ship's crew worked well, remaining on stage throughout the show, they continued reacting to the other characters all the time and I was impressed with that. The whole production was under the direction of Christine Knill - this is a complicated musical, but she brought it all together with charm. Nick Eastwood, as Musical Director, brought out the very best in the cast with some good harmony work. He also played Keyboard, alongside two guitarists and drums - a great 60's sound from them. Rebecca Burton was responsible for the choreography and it ideally suited the cast of mixed age groups. I attended the show on first night and the gremlins were in the house (lighting board failure) but I have to praise the entire cast for carrying on with house lights - as professional as can be and it did not detract from their performance. On the creative side, the space-ship designed set was well constructed - the Production Manager, Claire Stubbs, along with Stage Manager, Mike McKinley and his crew had obviously put a great deal, of effort into the stage settings. Enid Doyle had put together an excellent set of costumes for the whole cast - I must say the make-up was of a high standard (un-credited).

One final personal observation - I do hope the cast were able to relax and bring out the 'send-up' comedy this musical needs - so very nostalgic for me, as I knew the writer, Bob Carlton, personally - he would have been very pleased with you all!!