Drawing equally on William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and the 1956 sci-fi film “Forbidden Planet” (itself based loosely on the Bard’s classic) “Return to the Forbidden Planet” is the futuristic rock-and-roll musical you never knew you needed.
Blast off — to Bainbridge Performing Arts — on a routine flight and crash into the planet D’Illyria where a sci-fi version of Shakespeare set to rock’s golden oldies unfolds with glorious glee.
The planet is inhabited by a sinister scientist, Dr. Prospero; his delightful daughter Miranda; Ariel, a faithful robot; and an uncontrollable monster, the product of Prospero’s Id, who wreaks havoc on the space craft.
This Atomic Age romp includes a soundtrack of classics like “Born to be Wild,” “Wipeout,” “Good Vibrations,” “Great Balls of Fire” and “The Monster Mash,” among others.
The stellar show comes to the BPA stage — helmed by Ryan Patrick O’Donnell in his BPA directing debut — Friday, Oct. 12 through Sunday, Oct. 28, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays.
There is also a pay-what-you-can preview at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11 and an opening night reception at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 12.
The show features musical direction by Trina Williamson Jackson and choreography by Heather Dawson; and a cast which boasts many new faces and a few faves as well: Bob Reed (Captain Tempest), Megan Twamley (Miranda), Nelson Spickard (Dr. Prospero), Helene Minassian (Ariel the Robot), Michelle Hensel (Science Officer), Matt Howe (Cookie), Meghan Newton (Bosun Arras), Jennifer Pippin-Montanez (Navigation Officer), Jennifer Carrillo (Dee Tergent), Kevin Tanner (Andy Sceptic), Alexis Rodriguez (Cutie Cull) and Brian Danzig (Newsreader).
O’Donnell, a sci-fi fan himself, said it was proving to be the perfect show for his directorial debut.
“I think there’s a lot of opportunity there in terms of the tradition of sci-fi and its reflecting of our culture and our times,” he said.
“Especially since it’s based on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’ … it has sort of those obvious themes of hubris and whatnot, but it’s also sort of interesting, we’ve talked a little bit about how certainly that’s sort of very obvious in terms of Prospero’s interaction with the storyline. But if you took out Prospero, if you took out the monster, if you took out that part of it, you would still see that theme showing up throughout other characters’ interactions with each other.”
Though a new directing talent, O’Donnell is a familiar face on the island stage. And he got his first taste of leadership when he acted as assistant director to Ken Michels during the recent production of “Peter and the Starcatcher.”
“I have learned a lot acting in shows here about sort of their process here, but definitely assisting directing with Ken Michels gave me that opportunity to really see some of the behind-the-scenes stuff about how their process works,” O’Donnell said. “It’s certainly helpful jumping in this time, having that.”
Among a soundtrack of iconic hits, O’Donnell said his favorite numbers are the early ones in the show.
“I like a lot of the numbers at the beginning, things like ‘Wipe Out’ and ‘Great Balls of Fire,’ just because they sort of help immerse the audience in the world immediately,” he said. “They sort of create the setting, versus as we get more into the show, the songs start to do more of the storytelling.”