Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
Arts & Culture

'Return To Forbidden Planet' Serves Up Shakespeare's Lost Rock And Roll Masterpiece

David S. Humphrey is Captain Tempest and Marlene Montes is the ship's science officer in "Return to Forbidden Planet" at the New Village Arts Theatre.
Beth Accomando
David S. Humphrey is Captain Tempest and Marlene Montes is the ship's science officer in "Return to Forbidden Planet" at the New Village Arts Theatre.

Jukebox musical takes the stage at Carlsbad's New Village Arts Theatre

"Return To Forbidden" Planet Mixes The Bard And Rock And Roll
"Return to Forbidden Planet" approaches Shakespeare by way of rock and roll music and sci-fi B movies. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando checks out the Bard in outer space at the New Village Arts Theater.

ANCHOR INTRO: Return to Forbidden Planet approaches Shakespeare by way of rock and roll music and sci-fi B movies. KPBS arts reporter Beth Accomando checks out the Bard in outer space at the New Village Arts Theater. TAG: Return to Forbidden Planet continues through September 6 at the New Village Theater in Carlsbad.   Shakespeare’s been dead for centuries but that hasn’t stopped people from exhuming his plays and trying to breath new life into them for modern audiences. Radical reinterpretations of the Bard have included moving Hamlet to a Canadian brewery for the comedy Strange Brew or placing the ambitious tale of Macbeth against the backdrop of the dawning fast food industry. CLIP Susie here still loves the whooper but you got me with the Big McBeth. The 1950s produced a famous intergalactic interpretation of The Tempest. CLIP Imagine yourself on this faster than light spaceship MARLENE MONTES: Forbidden Planet was loosely based on The Tempest and so we’re loosely, loosely based on that. Marlene Montes plays the sexy science officer in the play Return to Forbidden Planet at Carlsbad’s New Village Arts Theater. MARLENE MONTES: We call it Fakespeare, there’s actually real dialogue from Shakespeare’s plays, my character alone quotes 10 of the plays but then they also kind of write the dialogue to change some things so for example there’s one line that is Two beeps or not to beep” and people think it’s a riot. The play is a jukebox musical created by Bob Carlton in the 1980s. It draws on Shakespeare's The Tempest and the 1950s science fiction film Forbidden Planet, which also cited the Bard’s last play as inspiration. Return to Forbidden Planet originally billed itself as Shakespeare's forgotten rock and roll masterpiece. And why not, the Bard and rock and roll is a winning combo says Montes. MARLENE MONTES: They work so well together because Shakespeare was written for the masses, for everyone and rock and roll also speaks to the masses so I think that’s why it’s so relatable in such a weird way. She says Shakespeare’s poetry taps into the essence of musical theater. MARLENE MONTES: when you burst into song it’s because it’s an elevated, like your emotions are elevated and speaking can’t quite convey so people break out into song. I think it’s the same thing with Shakespeare and the text guides you to that place and how it’s kind of organic So it makes perfect sense for the Prospero character to introduce himself by singing Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood CLIP I’m just a man whose intentions are good, oh lord please don’t let me be misunderstood. The familiar songs help make sure that Shakespeare is understood says actor David S. Humphrey. DAVID S. HUMPHREY: Exactly, what’s great about this show is people that don’t understand Shakespeare and haven’t been involved with it or taken that step into there, I don’t know if they are afraid of it or they don’t think they’ll understand it or they are not interested, this gives them that taste of it and makes them go wait I might actually like to see a Shakespeare play or see the Tempest. You could say Return to Forbidden Planet serves as a gateway drug to the Bard says Montes. MARLENE MONTES: Absolutely I read somewhere that it was like Shakespeare on training wheels. Kind of like a good introduction to Shakespeare so absolutely I think it’s relatable and so funny and effortless the way they work in the show so maybe it will inspire someone to read some Shakespeare. The Tempest had its characters isolated on an island and Return to Forbidden Planet takes it to the next level by stranding them on a distant planet. It refreshes Shakespeare’s play so that anyone familiar with the text won’t know what to expect from the Bard in space says Humphrey who plays Captain Tempest. DAVID S. HUMPHREY: they will be ale to come in and see the Shakespeare but also be a part of the wonderful music and see the wonderful sci fi aspects to it. The production definitely references Star Trek and Star Wars as well a comics and B movies of the 50s. But underneath it all Humphrey says Shakespeare is there. DAVID S. HUMPHREY: it’s really fun because you are mixing all this together it’s just such a creative thing to do and it’s amazing how well it goes together and Shakespeare still fits today because you can do that you can take these wonderful songs from the 60s and put it with Shakespeare and it all mixes together really well. Shakespeare was all about pleasing the crowd from the groundlings up to the aristocrats, so I doubt that this campy cult musical is making Bill turn over in his grave. Quite the contrary, he’s probably pleased that he’s still good box office. Beth Accomando, KPBS News..

Companion viewing

"Forbidden Planet" (1956)

"Strange Brew" (1983)

"Scotland, PA" (2001)

"Return to Forbidden Planet" (running through Sept. 6 at Carlsbad's New Village Arts Theatre) approaches Shakespeare by way of rock and roll music and sci-fi B movies.

Shakespeare’s been dead for centuries but that hasn’t stopped people from exhuming his plays and trying to breath new life into them for modern audiences. Radical reinterpretations of the Bard have included moving Hamlet to a Canadian brewery for the comedy "Strange Brew" or placing the ambitious tale of "Macbeth" against the backdrop of the competitive fast food industry. In 1956, MGM produced a famous intergalactic interpretation of "The Tempest," starring Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, and Leslie Nielsen and entitled "Forbidden Planet."

"'Forbidden Planet' was loosely based on 'The Tempest' and so we’re loosely, loosely based on that," Marlene Montes explained. She stars as the sexy science officer in the play "Return to Forbidden Planet" at Carlsbad’s New Village Arts Theater.

"We call it 'Fakespeare,' but there’s actually real dialogue from Shakespeare’s plays. My character alone quotes ten of the plays but then they also kind of write the dialogue to change some things so, for example, there’s one line that is 'Two beeps or not to beep,' and people think it’s a riot."

Return to Forbidden Planet Mixes Bard and Rock and Roll

The play is a jukebox musical created by Bob Carlton in the 1980s. It draws on Shakespeare's "The Tempest" and the 1950s science fiction film "Forbidden Planet," which also cited the Bard’s last play as inspiration. "Return to Forbidden Planet" originally billed itself as Shakespeare's forgotten rock and roll masterpiece. And why not, the Bard and rock and roll is a winning combo says Montes.

"They work so well together because Shakespeare was written for the masses, for everyone and rock and roll also speaks to the masses so I think that’s why it’s so relatable in such a weird way," Montes said.

Plus, Shakespeare’s poetry taps into the essence of musical theater.

"When you burst into song it’s because it’s an elevated [moment], like your emotions are elevated and speaking can’t quite convey [it] so people break out into song. I think it’s the same thing with Shakespeare and the text guides you to that place and how it’s kind of organic," Montes added.

So it makes perfect sense for the Prospero character to introduce himself by singing "Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood."

The familiar songs help make sure that Shakespeare is understood.

"Exactly," actor David S. Humphrey stated. "What’s great about this show is people that don’t understand Shakespeare or haven't taken that step into there, I don’t know if they are afraid of it or they don’t think they’ll understand it or they are not interested. This gives them that taste of it and makes them go 'wait I might actually like to see a Shakespeare play or see 'The Tempest.''"

You could say "Return to Forbidden Planet" serves as a gateway drug to the Bard.

"Absolutely," Montes exclaimed. "I read somewhere that it was like Shakespeare on training wheels. Kind of like a good introduction to Shakespeare so absolutely I think it’s relatable and so funny and effortless the way they work in the show so maybe it will inspire someone to read some Shakespeare."

"The Tempest" had its characters isolated on an island and "Return to Forbidden Planet" takes it to the next level by stranding them on a distant planet. It refreshes Shakespeare’s play so that anyone familiar with the text won’t know what to expect from the Bard in space, said Humphrey who plays Captain Tempest.

"They will be able to come in and see the Shakespeare but also be a part of the wonderful music and see the wonderful sci fi aspects to it," Humphrey said.

The production definitely references "Star Trek" and "Star Wars" as well comics and B movies of the 50s. But underneath it all you still find Shakespeare.

"It’s really fun because you are mixing all this together, it’s just such a creative thing to do, and it’s amazing how well it goes together. Shakespeare still fits today because you can do that, you can take these wonderful songs from the 60s and put it with Shakespeare and it all mixes together really well," Humphrey said.

Shakespeare was all about pleasing the crowd from the groundlings up to the aristocrats, so I doubt that this campy cult musical is making Will turn over in his grave. Quite the contrary, he’s probably pleased that he’s still good box office.