Space Family Robinson

Review by: 
Matti Aijala

Intergalactic sex bomb Starbird has sent an SOS signal through the space. The only person in the whole universe, who can help her out is one Ted G Robinson - a father of two children stranded somewhere near San Francisco when the distress signal suddenly emerges from the skies. Ted whisks the family off to the Starbar Horizontale, an intergalactic Alcatraz. A terrifying high octane and sexually charged battle between two leather clad lovers ensues. What will happen next and will they be saved?

It's not just the storyline of Space Family Robinson that is comic book in style. In this musical book/lyric writer and co-composer Julian Butler together with his brother and composer Stephen Butler uses every possible way to send up those wonderfully campy television series and old sci-fi movies. They seem to be having lots of fun while parading some of the most unthinkable heroes to the musical stage. Nobody could possibly take this material too seriously and this is exactly the way that the Butler brothers are treating it.

In some scenes the overall tone can be slightly too serious (the dramatic opening sequence is especially confusing - more Metropolis than Forbidden Planet) and the audience does not quite know what to expect from that point on. The show is at its best when it is complete camp and saucy spoof. The same balance problems continue and the plot becomes confusing at times.

But none of this really matters as one finds the cast working hard and having lots of fun. It's not surprising that many of the reviews have likened the show to Rocky Horror, Return To The Forbidden Planet and Saucy Jack - they come to mind quite often. The only thing different is the Butler brothers music, which uses techno beat all the way from the opening to the disco finale. Luckily the score still has some melodic stuff in it and also is rather inventive in its own limited idiom.

The cast itself is very strong and comes from a variety of backgrounds. Hannah Waddingham (most recently seen in The Beautiful Game in the West End) as Starbird is out on a mission to seduce the whole universe and makes to most of her admittedly saucy lead role. She is full of energy and sings powerfully managing to bring out some real emotion even in some of her less exciting songs.

Tim Barron (yep... the original square-jawed captain in Return To The Forbidden Planet) is wonderful as the head of family and as a prey to Starbird's advances and "attacks". He seems to know exactly how to find the right balance to make this campy material work and also has a great stage presence. Helena Biggs as the mom in the family is great fun to watch and both Lucy (Laurie Hagen) and Brad (Stuart Piper) are both spunky and funny as their teenage children bickering and having fun at each others expense when ever possible.

Hadrian Delacey as Starbird's current husband Nefarius (she has a funny habit of killing her mates after she gets tired with them... gulp!) is both believable and campy. Unfortunately he has some of the most unnecessary songs in the score to sing, but that is hardly not his fault. Arvid Larsen is impressive as Sakura with whom Brad unwittingly falls in love in the funniest number of the score She's An Angel.

Also in the excellent cast are Stephen Carlile, JJ Criss and Mark Carroll, appearing as more other worldly space figures, and Nicky Callanan, who has great fun playing the super blonde female inmate Vanity Headcase. Designers Matt Gates & Toria Lancaster manage to create a believable world out there in the limitations of a Fringe venue.

(Matti Aijala)

Review courtesy of Musical Stages Online Web site

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