Encore Michigan

‘Forbidden Planet’ sets up camp in Burns Park with The Penny Seats

Review August 12, 2023 David Kiley

By Kori Fay

ANN ARBOR, MI–I truly had no idea what I was moon-walking into when I sat down in my so-old-it’s-threatening-to-break lawn chair on the wet grass at Burns Park in Ann Arbor this evening. I had no idea I was in for just under two hours of joy, campy-ness, fun, and bubbles? I have not stopped smiling since the final bow, and truly commend the cast, crew, and production team on their fabulous and catchy production of Return To The Forbidden Planet.

Many people and Wikipedia will tell you that this is a tale of Shakespeare, Star Trek, Rock n’ Roll, and Forbidden Planet…these people would be correct. However, this particular production at The Penny Seats in Ann Arbor, Michigan heavily leaned into Camp when storytelling. If you don’t know what camp is…camp is not taking yourself or the world around you seriously, it’s been a Met Gala theme and rightfully so because when done right, you end up with monster tentacles and 2D puppets that help tell the story.

Go to the theatre’s website here for showtimes and tickets, and check the theatre’s Facebook page for updates on how weather might impact shows and showtimes.

The story begins with audience participation, Shakespearean insults, and a look at each member aboard the Albatross until terror hits and the ship is being attacked by “Great Balls of Fire” or meteors. What follows is two hours of musical theatre, mayhem, and sacrificing oneself to the monster you created. Aboard the Albatross is Captain Tempest (Cordell Smith) whose voice is meant for the music in this show, Bosun Arras (Joseph Caradonna), Navigation Officer (Tina Paraventi), Cutie Cull (Jenna Pittman), Axel Dent (Austin Petrie), Dee Tergent (Matilda Seagraves), and Cookie (Henry Ballesteros) whose duet of Shake, Rattle, and Roll with Ariel the Robot will go down in history—bravo. We proceed to meet Science Officer (Leah Gittlen) whose performance and powerhouse voice would surely blow the roof off of the Albatross…you know if there was ever rock n’ roll in space, Doctor Prospero (Will Myers), Miranda (Ella Ledbetter-Newton), and Ariel the Robot (Allison Megroet) whose physical comedic gestures and a Siri-like cadence had me cackling every time she opened her mouth.

Director Tony Caselli mentions in his Director’s note that the focus is on Joy and being Joyful and that’s exactly what he and his production team achieved. Special shoutouts are in order for Assistant Director Julia Garlotte, beautiful Musical Direction by Brian Ketner and fun and colorful Choreography by Phil Simmons, a fun set by Amanda Bates, and costumes by Rachel Buechele. You all know how to cast a show, everyone on that stage is a force to be reckoned with. I am constantly and consistently in awe of the talent we have in Michigan.

Overall, I was left with a smile on my face, the sweet rhythms and rhymes of Shakespeare dancing on my tongue, and my feet literally dancing to the beautiful music of the band and members of the cast onstage. If you’re looking for a fun night of theatre, this is definitely for you.