Return to the Forbidden Planet - Notes from the Director


1609ish Shakespeare writes his final solo play, The Tempest.
1956      Director Fred Wilcox introduces the universe to Robby the Robot in a science fiction film loosely based on The Tempest, called Forbidden Planet.
1957     Otis Blackwell writes “Great Balls of Fire,” which Jerry Lee Lewis records at Sun Studios.
1957     Dick Clark’s American Bandstand begins its 33-year mission to give kids of all ages a beat they can dance to.
1960     Roy Orbison creates “Only the Lonely,” an anthem and a lament for the loser in all of us.
1966     Brian Wilson’s genius gives birth to “Good Vibrations,” the final track of his abandoned epic SMiLE.
1966     The show Gene Roddenberry once pitched as Wagon Train to the Stars, now called Star Trek, finally debuts on national television.
1985     Bob Carlton amalgamates all of the above to create and direct a cult hit (under a traveling tent in London) called Return to the Forbidden Planet.

Return to the Forbidden Planet is: a play, a Shakespeare review, a musical cabaret, a science fiction spoof, a Shakespeare spoof, a musical spoof, and a rock concert. Carlton’s play starts with the same premise Wilcox used for his film: “let’s do The Tempest in outer space, sort of.” In both versions of Planet, we have a mad scientist, Doctor Prospero; his daughter, raised in isolation, Miranda; and a robot (Wilcox calls his Robby, Carlton calls his Ariel). Carlton adds both literary and wacky dimensions not found in the film by making ninety- five percent of the dialogue lines from Shakespeare (or riffs off Shakespeare lines we call “Makespeare”). Using lines from sixteen Shakespeare plays, two sonnets, and one line from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Carlton creates such intergalactic gems as:

Two parents, both alike in dignity
In outer space, where we our play locate.

[looking at scanner]
CREW: But hold, I think I have another beep.
CPT: A second beep?:
CREW: Well, I’m not really sure.
CPT: Two beeps, or not two beeps?
CREW: That is the question.

Into this sci-fi/Shakespeare concoction, he also mixes in pop songs from the 1950’s and 60’s at strategic spots that contribute to his unhinged narrative. As the space ship dodges flaming asteroids, the crew breaks into Great Balls of Fire; when Miranda falls in love with the Captain and her father speaks disapprovingly to her, she expresses her emotional state with Teenager in Love. So the play truly becomes a rock and roll Shakespeare musical in outer space. And if all of the above isn’t enough to make your head spin in delight and wonder, this musical was originally designed for the actors to be the musicians while they play and sing onstage for the whole show.

We’ve taken Carlton’s musical fantasy and added a few more unique layers for your pleasure. We’re doing every piece of music live onstage with ACOUSTIC instruments, without electronic special effects (or microphones) as we leave the lights on the audience and make you shipmates on this adventure. By the time we’re done putting this show together, each actor will most likely be playing at least two instruments and singing.

Finally, we are not afraid to poke fun at Shakespeare (or musicals or Star Trek or rock and roll). But we also hope that we use the Shakespeare and Makespeare that Carlton gives us to take you on a “routine scientific survey flight” you will never forget. Thanks for coming. Enjoy the ride.

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Jim Warren
ASC Co-founder and Artistic Director