S&H Musical Review

Return to the Forbidden Planet Shakespeare/Bob Carlton/Matt Devitt at The English Theater, Frankfurt 6 February 2001

Serendipitous discoveries often enhance music travels. An overnight stop at Frankfurt en route to Stuttgart's Eclat 2001 left no obvious Monday evening alternative on to a sold-out Jose Carreras recital, but an English Theater in the city warranted seeking out. A little outside Seen&Heard's more typical fare, we had overlooked the original London production of Return to the Forbidden Planet in 1989 and were unaware that it had stormed New York, Sydney, Oslo and Japan since then, as well as touring extensively in UK, where it won the Olivier Award for Best Musical. Our younger generation assures us that the loss was ours and, maybe, yours? Well honed on its travels, this version of The Tempest has the potential for survival for as long as Shakespeare, whose story is irreverently celebrated with great wit and ingenuity alongside some of the great days of Rock and Roll, which had also passed me by at the time.

How many continental cities are able to support an English theatre we do not know? Frankfurt's is small, comfortable and well appointed, with all the high-tech equipment required for special effects in this space drama. The story was introduced on screen, and in character, by the Mayor of Frankfurt (for the original, it was Patrick Moore, who else?) and this enterprising theatre, which attracts audiences that are 70% German, enjoys premises provided by the City, is closely involved with schools and English language teaching.

The slightly altered story has Captain Tempest marooned in space. A robot called Ariel repairs the space ship, whose Science Officer who turns out to be Miranda's Mummy, who had betrayed the great scientist Prospero fifteen years ago and bundled him off in a defective satellite, with baby daughter on board ….. For more, and a wonderful farrago of Shakespeare quotes and re-writes, consult the text published by French & Co. The multi-skilled British cast acted, sang and danced, and played all the instruments themselves. They drew in the audience to participate with enormous and good humour, and the songs were taken from chart toppers of such luminaries as Bill Haley & his Comets, Cliff Richards, The Animals and The Beach Boys, and others from the '50s & '60s doubtless well known to everyone but us. A great night out; catch it if it comes your way after the cast comes back to UK following their four months in Frankfurt. Alternatively, there is a splendid original cast CD Virgin CDV 2631


Peter Grahame Woolf

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