Live onstage now—with internet afterlife to follow
|StarKid Productions presents|
|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).
Don’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.
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.
Bug (Joey Richter) discovers February (Denise Donovan) trapped in Bug World Hatchery.
All photos by Chris Dzombak