Review by Paul Nelson
ROCK and pop musicals come and go. I think I am right in asserting that The Rocky Horror Show was the first, certainly it was the best. Nothing since has been able to hold a candle to it.
In the style of Return to the Forbidden Planet, we have yet another stab at the genre with Space Family Robinson, a collection of feeble jokes in a ludicrous plot which apparently set Edinburgh alight during a recent festival. Poor old Edinburgh, is it the critics or the citizens who go into what appear to be booze-fuelled raptures annually.
The plot of this one concerns the arachnoid-ish Starbird, a voracious sexual vamp who has had everybody and despatched them, except for Pop, Ed G Robinson (yes it's that feeble).
The Robinsons are caught in a magnetic force they cannot escape and are drawn in (the cast dragged in I suspect) to the centre of the universe, the Starbar Horizontale. Here Starbird is to satisfy her cravings.
In the interim, the electronic chip she has tried to snare Ed with has been lodged in the family dog Muttley, and transformed into an android, he pilots the ship and in good old Lassie fashion finally overcomes the darker forces to release his beloved Robinson family.
I sat there transfixed.
I didn't laugh once, can't remember any of the music, and at one time wondered if there was a nearby Sainsbury's and if there were, did I need anything.
The part of Starbird, this writhing mass of sexual potency, is played by Hannah Waddingham in high-heeled thighboots. That's it folks, there's sexy for you. Cracking whips while trying to crack jokes, the part is a thankless, charmless version of a femme fatale.
We've had Gwen Verdon in Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity and Chicago as the perennial siren, and though often emulated, she has never been bettered. Here, Miss Waddingham joins the seeming endless queue of aspiring copycats and with no material to speak of falls so far short of the mark she evokes pity.
There's a suitably camp performance from Muttley, a splendidly evil, all-powerful baddie in Nefarius, and a good deal of charm from Brad Robinson, number one son.
If the show had a brand new attack at the musical scene, had a script so witty it was crying out to be performed, or had an outstanding member of the cast using it as a star vehicle, one could understand its raison d'etre.
Without any of the above, once again the question that will not go away is raised - WHY?
Space Family Robinson, Book and Lyrics by Julian Butler, Music by Julian Butler and Stephen Butler. Directed by Oliver Campbell-Smith, Choreography by Martin Wimpress, Musical Director, Julian Butler, Design and Costumes by Matt Gates, Lighting Design by Alan Paterson, Sound Design by Thames Audio Ltd. WITH Tim Barron (Dad Robinson), Helena Biggs Mom Robinson), Nicky Callanan (Vanity Headcase), Stephen Carlisle (Muttley), Mark Carroll (Gruusum Ennjin), JJ Criss (Dodo, Holster and Bolster), Hadrian Delacey (Nefarius), Laurie Hagan (Lucy Robinson), Arvid Larsen (Sakura), Stuart Piper (Brad Robinson), Hannah Waddingham (Starbird). Produced by Kevin Ramsay for Sit.Com plc. at The Pleasance Theatre, Carpenters Mews, North Road, N7. 0207609 1800.
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