Rubicon Brings Broadway to the Beach for Return to the Forbidden Planet

Leigh Kennicott Reviews - Theater
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It’s back, and it’s better than ever!  The Rubicon Theatre Company reprises its 2016 hit, Return to The Forbidden Planet, to celebrate its 20th year, headed by the award-winning director, Kirby Ward.  The cast is stellar, including a digital guest appearance by Fred Willard; the set is appropriately configured to resemble the STAR TREK cockpit, with costumes reminiscent of the show.

From the opening notes to the grand finale, the onstage band, headed by Captain Tempest  (Daniel DeYoung) and made up of musical directors Trevor Wheetman and Omar Brancato on guitar, with an hilariously sad-sack Matt Tucci on drums, rocks it up while recognizable types (Spock, Chekhov, Sulu and the gang) perform their version of The Tempest, 24th Century style.

Part of the charm of creator Bob Carlton’s half/serious, half/hilarious spoof on such popular icons as Shakespeare, television, and the entire 50s and 60s playbook is its familiarity. It seems quite an achievement to marry each iconic song with the appropriate actions in the script, but it works. For certain generations, all the songs are goodies: The opening storm -- “Wipeout,” young love – “Good Vibrations” and a meteor shower – “Shake, Rattle and Roll.” But for any generation, these cheerful tunes are a welcome, toe-tapping diversion.

It’s wonderful to see a cast of consummate pros biting into this material.  My favorite, of course, is Larry Cedar playing Ariel as an eerily perfect clone of Mork from Ork.  And it’s hard to think of a more perfect cast than Kevin Bailey as Dr. Prospero, Kimberly Hessler as Miranda, and Rebecca Ann Johnson as the Science Officer. Local back-up singers Natalie Graham, Josh Rank, Luke Hamann, and Samantha Hirschhorn represent the flight crew.

It wouldn’t be half the fun, though, without the thrust stage and set courtesy of designer Thomas S. Giamario, and costuming cloned by Pamela Shaw.  Dillon Artzer’s sparing use of video – the Fred Willard appearance, as well as scary spacemen and classic shots of outer space – keep the concept alive, while the cast reconstructs The Tempest with the help of off-hand lines lifted from the Shakespearean cannon. It’s well worth a day and evening at the beach!

Return to the Forbidden Planet continues on Wednesday at 2 & 7 pm; Thursday at 7, Friday at 8 pm and Saturday at 2 and 8 pm through November 4th.  The Rubicon Theatre is located on the corner of Laurel and Main, at 1006 E. Main St., Ventura 93001.  Tickets range from $40 to $50.  Call (805) 667-2900 or visit www.rubicontheatre.org.