Still stir­ring up a mu­si­cal storm

Re­turn to the For­bid­den Planet is back on tour with a stop at the Wy­combe Swan. JO-ANNE ROWNEY speaks to writer direc­tor Bob Carl­ton on bring­ing the first juke­box mu­si­cal back to lif

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WHEN Bob Carl­ton first thought of his ‘juke­box’ rock and roll show he never even com­pre­hended how the blend of science fic­tion, Shake­speare and live mu­sic would cap­ture peo­ple’s imag­i­na­tions.

Now 25 years later Re­turn to the For­bid­den Planet is kick­ing off its an­niver­sary tour, with a stop off at the Wy­combe Swan.

The Olivier award-win­ning show fol­lows Cap­tain Tem­pest and his crew as they first jour­ney into space.

The tale is told with tunes in­clud­ing Great Balls of Fire, Teenager in Love, Glo­ria, Heard It Through the Grapevine, Shake Rat­tle and Roll, Johnny B. Goode and Wipe­out.

Now Bob is back at the helm and it is like he has never been away.

“I never ex­pected the suc­cess the first time,” he said. “It was more of a sur­prise.”

It had been a grad­ual process. Bob was the artis­tic direc­tor of Bub­ble, a fringe com­pany, but when the com­pany mixed rock and roll with their own pieces, Bob spot­ted the possibilites.

“For­bid­den Planet is good be­cause it uses the Tem­pest,” he said.

“It just made sense to use Shake­speare’s style and have the mu­sic peo­ple love. “It just evolved.” The show has evolved over time as well. Peo­ple are in for a treat as a video trans­mis­sion is beamed in from Brian May, the lat­est to record the nar­ra­tor.

The part was pre­vi­ously played by Mag­nus Pyke and Sir Pa­trick Moore.

“It was an easy choice to get Brian to do it, he’s a rock ge­nius in Queen and then he’s an as­tronomer.

“When we first did it I asked for Mag­nus.

“We just took a hand­held video, then at the West End I asked for Pa­trick Moore and we filmed that. When he died Brian was an ob­vi­ous choice.”

Bob is back di­rect­ing again too, af­ter stints on soaps like Brook­side and Em­merdale. But he still prefers the theatre. “I like that in­ter­ac­tion with the ac­tors, get­ting the char­ac­ter.

“In soaps peo­ple know the role so well by the time you come in.

“They pay bet­ter, but theatre is what I love.”

De­spite this Re­turn to the For­bid­den Planet was the pro­duc­ers’ idea.

“It wasn’t some­thing I’d thought would come back but when the pro­duc­ers said let’s do it I agreed,” he said.

The show is not quite the same with new songs, that Bob thinks work with the orig­i­nal idea.

The ba­sis is the juke­box style, but the term was not in use when he first con­ceived the show.

“I never set out to cre­ate the juke­box show, or even a mu­si­cal.

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