The popular science-fiction musical first opened at London's Cambridge Theatre on 18 September 1989. A raucous combination of Shakespeare's The Tempest, and the 1957 Oscar-nominated film Forbidden Planet, Carlton's show has developed a cult following of Rocky Horror proportions. Featuring such hit songs as Great Balls of Fire, Teenager in Love and The Monster Mash, the musical's plot combines mad scientists, scary monsters and a marooned spaceship.
Return to the Forbidden Planet won the 1990 Olivier for Best Musical, beating off competition from Miss Saigon, Buddy and The Baker's Wife. The show has been revamped for touring on a number of occasions and has played extensively around the world. Bob Carlton, who is artistic director at Hornchurch, originally penned the piece for London's Bubble Theatre. His career has also included directing for television.
This new co-production between the Queen's Theatre and Richard Temple Productions reunites many of the team which created the original show. Carlton is joined by associate director Matt Devitt, musical director Julian Littman and designer Rodney Ford.
An updated sci-fi set has been installed, although Gerry Anderson's special effects and Patrick Moore's narration remain intact. In addition, a new team of actor-musicians, all of whom play at least four instruments, has been assembled. The current cast features Nick Lashbrook, Jane Milligan (daughter of Spike), Adrian Cobey, Philip Reed, Diana Croft, James Earl Adair, Fredrick Ruth and Sarah Beaumont.
Return to the Forbidden Planet launched its 2001 tour at Hornchurch in August. The musical is presented in the West End by Bill Kenwright.
- by Terri Paddock