Review “It Came from Outer Space” (Chicago Shakespeare Theater): Playful Hit Lands on Navy Pier

Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents the World Premiere IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE, A New Musical.

The creative team of Kellen Blair (book and lyrics) and Joe Kinosian (book and music) reimagine a 1953 sci-fi flick as a musical comedy. Blair and Kinosian spoof the tale of a small town being invaded by aliens. Their parody is an amusing mishmash of cliches and stereotypes from B movies set to music. Their songs, like “We are out there” and “If the humans only knew”, have both humor and heart. They not only entertain, they also reiterate the show’s underlying message of kindness. And seeing the original movie (I have not) is not a prerequisite for enjoyment, the dynamic duo streamline Ray Bradbury’s story and then make fun of it… a lot!    

Director Laura Braza stages this cult-classic-in-the-making in Shakes’ intimate stage on the sixth floor. Braza masterfully directs a mega-talented 6-person ensemble (Jonathan Butler-Duplessis, Ann Delaney, Alex Goodrich, Sharriese Y. Hamilton, Christopher Kale Jones, Jaye Ladymore). Most of the cast play multiple roles as townsfolk and aliens. The ranges of their personas is impressive! Butler-Duplessis and Goodrich are particularly dazzling flipping between personalities and species. The distinction in each of their many roles is both hilarious and amazing. At various points, the entire ensemble is zapped and possessed by aliens. The long-armed and awkward speaking extraterrestrials are scary funny. It’s a hoot!     

Leading the outlandish antics, Jones and Ladymore play a betrothed couple. Jones is a big city scientist. Ladymore is the small town teacher. A smug Jones, channeling a James T. Kirk style performance, tries to convince his fiancee’s townsfolk of trouble. Although they don’t believe him, his girlfriend does…mostly. The calm and confident Ladymore delivers a memorable performance in her own subtle and spunky way. Blair and Kinosian have actually scripted the movie’s unspoken comments by a-female-lead-treated-like-a-supporting-character. And Ladymore delivers each line with flourish. At one point, Jones is tediously explaining the plan while Ladymore completes it before he even finishes his speech. She proclaims, ‘I’m not just support.’ LOL!!                      

IT CAME FROM OUTER SPACE is an unexpected lighthearted addition to Chicago Shakes’ season. It’s also a delightful diversion from reality. In the programs’ notes, Blair and Kinosian reveal their true intent for the musical. They wanted to recreate their own experience of seeing a revival of “It came from outer space” in 3D. At that movie screening, the whole audience went ‘whooooooa’ and then giggled. If last night’s opening is any indication, their invasion is a giggle-fest. The ‘whoooooas’ might not have been audible yet the sentiment seemed apparent, these guys have landed a playful hit on Navy Pier.      

Running Time: One hundred and five minutes with no intermission

Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier

Based on the 1953 Universal Pictures film

Book and lyrics by Kellen Blair

Book and Music by Joe Kinosian

Directed by Laura Braza

Choreography by Dell Howlett

Music direction by Tom Vendafreddo

Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. 

Saturdays at 2pm

Sundays at 3:00 p.m. 

Thru July 24th

For more information or tickets

Production photos by Liz Lauren 

For more Chicago theatre information and reviews, please visit Theatre in Chicago

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