Science Fiction and Musical.
Two words that are unusual to find in the same sentence. For some reason sci-fi has rarely been seen as worthy enough to bestow the gift of the musical upon. But producer Hannah Elsy and writer/composer Henry Carpenter, (now on their second collaboration after The Quentin Dentin Show) seem to think differently. And so, with a very kind invitation, I made my way down to the Waterloo Vaults to see my first ever sci-fi musical.
Summer Nights in Space follows the journey of astronaut John Spartan (Matthew Jacobs Morgan). Travelling solo through the stars for over 3 years, the lonely astronaut only has his computer (Benjamin Victor) for company.
Out of the blue though, a distress signal is intercepted from a desperate female astronaut. Possessing balls and brains of equal size, John takes it upon himself to gallantly ride to this woman’s rescue. But unbeknownst to him, a flesh eating alien (Candice Palladino) has sneaked aboard his ship…
Kicking off with an extended solo sequence, it’s clear why Morgan was chosen to inhibit the role of John Spartan. With every glance and high note, Morgan dominates the scene and is more than able to hold our attention for the 20 or so minutes he has to himself.
Interjecting with his downtrodden observations is Victor in the role of the ship’s computer. Though merely a disembodied voice, Victor plays the role perfectly. With moroseness infused in every word, it’s hard not to make comparisons to the great work Alan Rickman did as Marvin in 2005’s The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
The later appearance of Palladino gives a much needed threat to the journey of the astronaut and his digital friend. Though only wearing relatively simple “alien” makeup, I found the traits and little touches she gave to her character incredibly engaging. More than once I caught myself watching the little movements of Palladino’s character rather than listening to the belting musical numbers from Morgan.
Speaking of musical numbers, Henry Carpenter’s work is a rip-roaring homage to the music of the 60s and 70s. Most of the songs, while maybe not toe-tapping classics, are the sort that I hope I could one day download to my iPod. (Yes, I still own an iPod!)
While wonderfully composed, the placement of certain songs does lead to a sense of imbalance. The first 3/4 of the play are filled with the upbeat melodies that you might expect to hear at a hyperactive jamboree; while the more somber songs are relegated to the final 15 minutes.
That sense of imbalance could also be applied to the plot, as the change from the lighthearted pursuit of love to the questioning approach towards humanity’s place in the universe seems rather bizarre. In addition a late plot development seems rather outlandish and could have been better set up.
Technical and plot problems aside, Summer Nights in Space is a fun filled galactic ride with musical treats galore.
Summer Nights in Space has 4 more evening performances at the Waterloo Vaults: Thursday 16th Feb – Sunday 19th Feb at 6:00pm, plus 1 matinee on Saturday 18th at 3:30pm.
Tickets can be booked here
Produced by Hannah Elsy (Hannah Elsy Productions)
Book, Music & Lyrics – Henry Carpenter
Director – Sinead O’Callaghan
Design, LX Design & Production Management – Lars Davidson
Movement – Caldonia Walton
Assistant Designer – Amy Thompson
Production Assistant – Jack B. Hathaway
Promotional Material Design – Mihaela Bodlovic
PR – Chris Hislop
Supported by Rich Mix London
Captain John Spartan – Matthew Jacobs Morgan
Alien – Candice Palladino
Lethal Space Bizzle and Computer – Benjamin Victor
Keys & Musical Director – Henry Carpenter
Guitar – Mickey Howard
Drums – Archie Wolfman