Saturday morning cartoon shows were my favorite growing up. I especially like the cartoons that went into space, or featured superheroes. Well Porthouse Theater has unleased their own brand of Saturday comic madness with their current production of “Starmites”, which is a musical with music and lyrics by Barry Keating, and a book by Stuart Ross and Barry Keating. It was first presented in 1980 Off-Off-Broadway by the Ark Theatre Company. It opened off-Broadway in 1987 and on-Broadway on April 27, 1989. It received six Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical. This quirky musical was ahead of its time, but it is back and bigger and rocking as ever.
The story Eleanor (Lucy Anders**), a shy teenager, collects science fiction comic books. In her fantasy, she becomes involved in the conflict between the evil Shak Graa (Darian Lunsford**) and the Star mites, comprising of their leader Spacepunk (Daniel Lindenberger**), and members Herbie Harrison (Elliot Litherland**), Dazzle Razzledorf (Dylan Ratell**) and Ack Ack Ackerman (Christopher D. Tuck**), who are the guardian angels of Interspace. The Starmites believe that Eleanor is pre-ordained to save the universe from destruction and take her to seek “The Cruelty,” a powerful musical instrument, which they must find before it falls into the hands of Shak Graa. On their quest, they find what they believe to be a lizard like slave to Shak Graa named Trinkulus, who tells them that the Cruelty lies in Shriekwood forest. In the forest, the Banshees Canibelle (Jessica Nicole Benson**), Maligna (Mackenzie Duan**), Shotzi (Grace Falasco**), and Balbraka (Miriam Henkel-Moellmann**), kidnap the sleeping intruders and they take them to meet Diva (Colleen Longshaw*), the Queen of the Banshees. What is left to enjoy is a story of true love, loyalty, wedding bell blues, battling evil, and, of course, the universe being saved from destruction……..for now.
All of the actors in this production nail the Saturday morning cartoon feel. This is accomplished by the excellent vision and direction by Michael McIntosh*, and the execution of a dynamic comedic troupe equipped with powerful vocals. Adding to the fierceness, is the choreography of Amy Fritsche. Starting right off with the Starmites signature pose, Fritsche adds many silly boy band moments, and kicks some intergalactic ass in the big production numbers. What a fresh new feel to the hoofers on stage. Music Director Jennifer Korecki delivers a fiery punch to the proceedings, by providing vivid and lively music that propels the production to delightful and engaging levels.
Anders as Eleanor Fairchild does an exquisite job of portraying both sides of her personae, as she also inhabits Bizarbara, the Diva’s daughter. Equipped with a beautiful voice, and deft comedic choices, she helms this excursion with supreme confidence. As we enter the universe, Lindenberger is delightful as Spacepunk, the alpha leader. His charming stage presence, romantic heroism and gorgeous voice are tremendous additions to the production.
As Eleanor’s Mother (pre-universe) and Diva, the Queen of the Banshees, Longshaw serves up nice and fierceness all night long. As Eleanor’s mother, she is sweet, stern, and kind. As Diva, Longshaw unleashes some vocal power that would ignite an asteroid belt revival. During her glorious pulsating numbers, I lost count how many times she went to intergalactic church and back. But I do know, I was covered in Holy Water at the end. Total delight.
Following their leader Lindenberger, are three very funny Starmite followers, Litherland, Ratell, and Tuck. These dudes are hilarious, and impressively cohesive, as their antics fuel a lot of the laughs due to their comic chicanery. If they were all in the Big Brother house, it would end with a tie. Each providing a captivating character to enjoy. Vocally they cut excellent harmonies, with Ratell taking charge of the tenor line with gale force bravado. Lunsford effectively does double duty as the shy reserved lizard Trinkulus, and the evil Shak Graa. Each character is delightfully different, and gives the audience a fun evil menace to love. Over the top madness, with a twist of vocal distinction.
Here comes the Banshees, or as I like to call them, the original Spice Girls, um, Space Girls. Benson, Henkel-Moellmann, Duan and Falasco are a terrific group of ladies who own their own special brand of vocal and dance prowess. They cut a fine rug, and serve up fierce vocal. Falasco gets a bonus featured moment, as she is possessed by Oragala, and delivers some feisty vocals.
Costume Designer Susan Williams must have had a blast creating this show. Fabulous job. Scenic Designer Steve Pauna will have made every comic book fan thrilled with his work. Solid Sound Design by Brian Chismar, and suburb Technical Direction provided by Ryan T. Patterson. Stage Manager Joshua Brown and Equity Stage Manager Derric Nolte* called a great show.
This show is a blast. There is a little sag towards the end of act one, but not enough to damage the charm of this piece. This is a great family show to put on the “TO DO” list.
P.S. I have to say that Terri Kent gave one of the most exquisite introduction speeches about Roe Green that I have ever heard. Bravo.
*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers.
**Equity Membership Candidate
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July 3 – July 19
$17-$38 Reserved Seating
Blossom Music Center
1145 W Steels Corners Rd
Cuyahoga Falls, OH 44223