It’s not every day you see a show with a story based on The Tempest and a score which includes The Monster Mash, but that’s just a taste of the weird and wonderful happenings in Return to the Forbidden Planet. And SOSage Factory’s production of this quirky jukebox musical, at The Core in Solihull, is truly out of this world.
The audience is welcomed aboard a spaceship for a routine survey flight under the command of Captain Tempest and soon after the craft gets into difficulty and is drawn to a mysterious planet.
A love triangle, a friendly robot and a monster with huge tentacles are among the madness that ensues over the next two hours as the crew work out how to escape, with a tour de force of classic hits from the 50s and 60s as their backdrop.
If none of that makes sense, don't worry you’re normal. But by some strange magic of musical theatre it all comes together rather beautifully into an entertaining tale littered with iambic pentameter and occasionally cringeworthy Shakespearean gags.
Charlie Loughran is perfectly suited to the role of the brash Captain Tempest and handles a very tricky compilation of classic numbers quite beautifully. His renditions of Young Girl and The Young Ones are particularly enjoyable.
Meanwhile Georgia-Beth Rabone is a joy to watch, and an even greater joy to listen to, as the ship’s Science Officer. Her effortlessly powerful voice impresses from the moment she joins Captain Tempest in It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World.
There’s clearly no shortage of talent in the Loughran family with Richard Loughran turning in a delightful performance as Dr Propsero’s robotic masterpiece, Ariel. His computerised diction is delivered so well you would think it was pre-recorded and his deep, soulful singing voice impresses and amuses in equal measure throughout, especially in Good Vibrations and War Paint.
Joseph Canning delivers a thoughtful portrayal of the tortured genius Doctor Prospero. His transition from arrogant pursuit of scientific superiority to ultimate sacrifice is well handled and his performance of Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood is particularly impressive.
Ciaran Walker is excellent as the story’s other tragic figure, bringing a delightfully natural humour to the role of Cookie and he impresses vocally too, especially in She’s Not There.
Elsewhere Erin Craddock is excellent as Miranda, the object of Cookie and Captain Tempest’s affection, Dan Bradbury impresses as the ship’s sturdy voice of reason, Bosun, and Kathyrn Ritchie makes an entertainingly energetic Navigation Officer.
Abigail Baxter, Isabelle O’Donnell and Gemma Winfield put in lovely cameos as the news reporters.
The energy and commitment of the young people in this group never ceases to amaze.
This is a show with no room for inhibition and anyone who remembers their teenage years will know that’s not always easy for youngsters. But every single member of the cast puts their all into each number in a way which brings the stage to life and never fails to put a smile on your face.
Though slightly whacky, the choreography is quite exacting in some of the bigger numbers, especially in the finale, and I have to say it is tighter than I’ve seen in many an adult show.
The quality of this production and the performance standard is all the more impressive when you consider that a real life monster - the Beast from the East - cost the group two out of their four performances.
To recover from that disappointment after months of rehearsals and deal with the added pressure of knowing your last two shows, both on the same day, will be your only performances really is admirable.
While the disappointment of cancelled shows fades very quickly, terrific performances live long in the memory and SOSage made absolutely sure their 2018 production will be remembered for being a great success.
Congratulations to director Emma Talibudeen, musical director Mel O'Donnell, choreographer Sarah Golby and the rest of the production team on another hit.
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