Monday, November 30, 2015

Return to the Forbidden Planet

Few works symbolize the affection Britons hold for the period more than "Return to the Forbidden Planet." This West End hit, scheduled to open in New York next Sunday at the Variety Arts Theater Off Broadway, is based on the 1956 sci-fi movie "Forbidden Planet" and relocates the plot of "The Tempest" to outer space. But its pulling power derives principally from its exhortation to the audience to sing, clap and dance to vintage hits such as "Great Balls of Fire" and "Shake, Rattle and Roll."... In London, to the disgust of the impresario Cameron Mackintosh, "Forbidden Planet" beat his production of "Miss Saigon" for the 1990 Olivier Award for Best Musical. ~ New York Times. 1991.

When I wrote it, it was the plot that came first and then the songs suggested themselves. I didn’t try and write a scene around Great Balls of Fire. I took Shakespeare’s actual tempest scene in The Tempest and thought “What’s the obvious song?” If you’re in outer space it’s going to be an asteroid storm so therefore it’s obvious to use Jerry Lee Lewis’s Great Balls of Fire, which is cut around Shakespeare’s tempest scene. ~ Bob Carlton Interview. 2015.

Friday, November 20, 2015


It's hard to be the Diva, it's hard to be Divine
To live the life of fever with your guts on the line!
It's hard to be the Diva, the stories I could tell
My life may seem like heaven, babe, but boy is it hell!

We follow Skyscraper with another dreaming heroine. Starmites is not a great show but it can a fun guilty pleasure. The best song, DIVA, made a positive impression at the 1989 Tony Awards ceremony and the show makes a family friendly choice for school and community groups. The show received new attention when it was featured in the documentary Guys 'N Divas: Battle of the High School Musicals. 

Monday, November 16, 2015


~ Let's take a movie star and write a musical for her!
~ Sounds great. Can she sing?
~ Not really but we'll write charm songs for her and give the big ballads to the leading man.

It worked for Rosalind Russell and Lauren Bacall. It flopped for Katherine Hepburn, Lucille Ball, and many others. They leave behind broken dreams and fascinating cast albums. Take the Julie Harris vehicle Skyscraper. She's charming and the audience wants to root for her but the show won't have it. The music, plot and ultimate victory got to the men

In 1941 Lady in the Dark used dream sequences to psychoanalyze the star. Here they were mostly filler. Peter Marshall's architect makes the feeble argument that skyscrapers are a "way to the stars." He, and Charles Nelson Reilly's clown, somehow persuade her to sell her home and business for the sake of urban development.

Skyscraper qualifies as one of the weakest shows ever to receive favorable reviews... The final version of Skyscraper borrowed only the heroine’s name and the idea of her daydreaming from Rice’s play, and the daydreaming was now just a gimmick to pad out a thin evening.” ~ Ken Mandelbaum. Not Since Carrie

"It stank. A good idea needs more than a good cast and a good choreographer [Michael Kidd]...  The score generally lacked delight." ~ Ethan Mordden. Open a New Window.