“Forbidden Planet” offers wild ride | Daily Reflector

Matthew Johnson, Robert DiDomenico as Captain Tempest and Josy Christian in a scene from ECU's production of

Jay Clark

Matthew Johnson, Robert DiDomenico as Captain Tempest and Josy Christian in a scene from ECU’s production of “Return to the Forbidden Planet.” (Jay Clark/East Carolina University)


The Daily Reflector

Friday, February 28, 2014

Audiences for the production “Return to the Forbidden Planet,” should be sure their seatbelts are securely fastened and their tray tables are in an upright and locked position, because they are in for a wild ride.

The East Carolina School of Theatre and Dance production, written by Bob Carlton, pulls inspiration from Shakespeare and the rock-and-roll of the ’50s and ’60s and wraps it all into a sci-fi storyline with a trip to outer space.

The musical is based of the original movie “The Forbidden Planet,” made by MGM in the 1950s.

“It was the first sci-fi movie to sort of break the movie genre in terms of MGM input serious money and special effects and everything behind it, even though it still kind of has that ’50s cheesy B movie feel,” lighting and sound director Erich Keil said.

The movie is loosely based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” but Carlton took that Shakespearean influence a step further, drawing inspiration from several more of the Elizabethan playwright’s works. All of the speech between the characters is sci-fi modified Shakespearean verse.

“At opportune moments throughout the show, they break into song — as you’re prone to do in a musical — but the songs they break into are all ’50s and ’60s rock-and-roll classics,” Keil said. “So there’s The Beach Boys in there, The Animals, The Turtles. It’s sort of a juke-box musical, plus a Shakespeare play and a sci-fi ’50s B movie all rolled into one.”

The heavy rock-and-roll influence presents a unique challenge to Allen Meredith, a senior who is working as the sound designer for the production.

“The whole show, once we get going and we take off into space, it’s a rock concert,” said Keil. “Instead of your typical musical orchestra with quiet underscoring, he’s got a loud rock band to try to get singers over the top of. He’s really got to approach it more like a rock concert than a musical.”

The eclectic nature of the musical allowed for extra creative influence from Keil and technical director Reid Parker (who said they often share and trade off their responsibilities), who have made the show their own.

“Reid and I are both sort of sci-fi nuts and have thought this show was funny since we initially pitched it to John (Shearin), the director of the school,” Keil said. “So, once we got it in the season, we insisted that we have a very heavy creative input into it, because it’s just fun. It has been a blast to work on it.

“Certainly there’s challenges with it. You can take the approach that because it’s a cheesy, sci-fi B movie, that we can sort of do whatever we want with it, but at the same time, we want the audience to feel like they’re taken care of and give them a structure and a set of rules.”

The effort between Keil and Reid has been a very collaborative one, which has included, among other duties, designing the lighting and the set.

“We change hats a lot,” Keil said. “We ask each other all the time, ‘which hat are you wearing?’ because one of us has to be the voice of reason and the other one has to be the creative voice so that we’re not limiting ourselves to what we already know how to do and we’re challenging ourselves to do something fun and artistic, but we’re also doing things that we know we can accomplish.”


Contact Natalie Sayewich at nsayewich@reflector.com or 252-329-9596.