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
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.