Review: Starship the Musical (Team Starkid)

  
  

Live onstage now—with internet afterlife to follow

  
  

Team Starkid's new musical, Starship, opens on February 11, 2011 in Chicago.

Credit: Chris Dzombak/Starkid

   
StarKid Productions presents
  
Starship
  
Music and Lyrics by Darren Criss
Book by
Matt and Nick Lang, Brian Holden, and Joseph Walker
Directed by
Matt Lang
at
Hoover-Leppen Theatre, 3656 N. Halsted (map)
thru Feb 23  |  tickets: $25  |  more info

Reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

For an Internet sensation that began on YouTube, the young folks of Team Starkid sure can produce a ton of theater in one sitting–like their 2009 success A Very Potter Musical, a fan-generated parody that went viral (in the best sense). Created by the likes of Darren Criss (now a regular on “Glee”) and puppet designer Russ Walko (of “The Simpsons” fame), their new 210-minute creation is the epic spoof Starship, a show you can read about here but can’t see because the short run is sold out (though their website says that there may be tickets available at the door).

Bug (Joey Richter) discovers February (Denise Donovan) trapped in the Bug World Hatchery, from "Starship the Musical" now playing in Chicago.  Photo credit: Chris DzombakDon’t worry: It’s far from the best show you (probably) never get to see. It’s not just its humongous, three-and-a-half-hour length, including ten endings and too many character crises to resolve for anyone to care about the results. Loosely based on the grisly 1996 film “Starship Troopers” (itself a parody of World War II propaganda newsreels), this overlong concoction owes 90% of its plot to other sources too—“Avatar,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Shrek,” “Avenue Q,” “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” and, above all, “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life.” Take away all these influences and you’ve got practically no plot. What remains are a few semi-memorable songs by Criss, who knows how to spin generic pop anthems out of too few notes. Still, as a pastiche, this is no worse than Lloyd Webber’s “Joseph” and almost as much fun.

There’s also the staging by co-author Matt Lang which, despite its excesses, is charming throughout, energized by a 13-member cast who will look just as good on your laptop as at the Center on Halsted.

The voluminous and futuristic plot, here drastically reduced to a bare synopsis, focuses on a planet like the arachnid colony Klandathu in the Casper Van Dien film—but here the insects are much more varied and much less vicious. One, broadly named Bug, wants to become a Starship Ranger, like the ones that crashed on the planet 18 years before, only to be devoured by the still insatiable Pincer. Bug (the sweet-faced, strong-lunged Joey Richter) finds himself transformed into a humanoid and, Mermaid-like, is drawn to the airhead science officer February. She’s one of the new very stereotypical Starship Rangers who have reached the planet for the purpose of recolonization. But the maleficent Junior has other plans for enslaving the bugs and exploiting them as mutant slaves.

Taz (Lauren Lopez) and Up (Joe Walker) take off into battle in StarKid’s new comedy musical Starship, now playing in Chicago's Center on Halsted.  Photo credit: Chris Dzombak.

These colorful caricatures mate with plodding precision: The human-hating robot Mega-Girl overcomes her distaste for weak earthlings by going for the rhapsodic redneck Tootsie Noodles. The nerdy Specs falls for the burly Krayonder, gung-ho Commander Up falls for demure Taz, and Bug wins valley girl February.

Because the show borrows so widely from so many sources, it barely works as a subversion of the mindless action sequences of “Starship Troopers,” with its semi-fascist message that soldiers are more important than citizens. But the true believers in the opening night audience (mostly teen girls and tweener fans) were delighted with every thudding cliché. Sometimes it really helps not to know a show’s influences – another way that ignorance is bliss.

  
  
Rating: ★★★
  
  

Team Starkid's new musical, Starship, opens on February 11, 2011 in Chicago.

Credit: Chris Dzombak/Starkid

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REVIEW: Queertopia (About Face Youth Theatre)

No Fear in Queer

 

 About Face Youth Theatre - Queertopia 6

   
About Face Youth Theatre presents
   
Queertopia
  
Written by Paula Gilovich
Directed by
Sara Kerastas
at
Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted (map)
through July 25  |  tickets: $12-$20  |  more info

reviewed by Lawrence Bommer

About Face Youth Theatre - Queertopia 1Only two performances remain for Queertopia, an ensemble show that belongs exactly where it plays—in darkest Lakeview. Violence against gays and lesbians is the sadly topical subject of this year’s offering from the young people of About Face Theatre. For 80 minutes the frenetic storytellers tear around a stage filled with party balloons and a rolling scaffolding as they create a kind of Queer Love Army who  manage to meet in an abandoned condo in a not so distant dystopia. Like the squatters in “Hair” and “Rent,” they’re the vanguard of a cultural tipping point, even as they testify to their diversity in a series of confessions about what they do whenever they get home. “Out of the mouths of babes” has never felt truer.

Alas, little has changed and issues of gender identity, bullying, homophobia (here the Bible actually becomes a weapon), self-hatred, and harassment of and by minorities crop up as we meet Flea, a boy (the strategically ambiguous Britney Fryer) who while changing his sex falls for a straight girl and cops a dry known as T for testosterone. His new girlfriend incurs the wrath of Teddy (the wonderful Cristian Gorostieta) who finds an improbable common cause with the newly bisexual Lexi (lovely Neomara Serges) who somehow manages to be both Serbian and Bosnian, a truly composite soul.

About Face Youth Theatre - Queertopia 3 About Face Youth Theatre - Queertopia 8
About Face Youth Theatre - Queertopia 9g About Face Youth Theatre - Queertopia 93 About Face Youth Theatre - Queertopia 4

Cavorting to simulations of 21st century music videos, using the audiences’ faces as mirrors for their own, or just sleeping in a communal pile, these dozen young actors are all carving out, individually and collectively, their fabulous queer space and standing up to the bashers who want to eliminate it altogether. At its best the play presents a kind of blueprint for a gay community beyond the bars of Boystown that’s as much within as without. The acting, better than in previous Youth Theatre offerings, ultimately carries the day.

   
  
Rating: ★★★
   
   

About Face Youth Theatre - Queertopia 2

      
        
       
        

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Celebrate Bailiwick with Alexandra Billings (and friends)

billings

 

On Sunday, July 26, at 8:00, Bailiwick family and friends will gather in Center on Halsted’s Hoover-Leppen Theatre, to

 

 

 

Celebrate Bailiwick 

with Alexandra Billings 

*and friends*

 

Alexandra_Billings 

Artists scheduled to perform include Alexandra Billings, Bailiwick Artistic Associate Alanda Coon, Susan May, Dana Tretta, George Andrew Wolff, Jeremy Rill, Danni Smith, (from the cast of The Cousins Grimm) and Rus Rainear and Eric Martin (from the cast of Bombs Away)
.
Musical Direction is by Robert Ollis, with bassist Larry Gray
The event is produced by Lampkin Music Group.
Sponsored by Rick Kogan and WGN

I hope you will join us for an evening of music and stories, celebrating my long association with Bailiwick.  How many years has it been since Gypsy with Susan May at 1229 W Belmont?  Or Son of Fire with Will Chase at Theatre Building Chicago? Oy!  Come join me for a fun evening celebrating friendship and music.

                                                                           Alexandra Billings

Tickets: $25 General Admission, or $30 for reserved priority seating.
Call 773 883 1090 to reserve or 1800 838 3006, or order on line at www.brownpapertickets.com.

From Artistic Director David Zak:

Whether of not you can attend, please consider supporting Bailiwick by making a donation. Checks may be mailed to Bailiwick, 3023 North Clark 327, Chicago, IL 60657. Credit card donations can be made by calling 773 883 1090 or emailing DGZak1@gmail.com. Donations can also be made on-line at www.guidestar.org.

Thank you for your support.

David Zak, and Bailiwick’s Artistic Team

========================================================

About Bailiwick:

Founded in 1982, Bailiwick has been a leader in Chicago’s vibrant off-Loop theater scene, earning over 150 Jeff Awards, Citations, and Nominations in every category of artistic excellence.  Bailiwick’s current offerings include the world premiere musical The Cousins Grimm and the Chicago premiere of the comedy Two Spoons, playing in repertory in the Hoover-Leppen Theater of the Center on Halsted, 3656 North Halsted.

View performance schedule on line at www.bailiwick.org, or call 773-883-1090 or 1800 838 3006.  Or order tickets on line at www.brownpapertickets.com.

Picture courtesy of Windy City Media Group.