Starmites, the 1989 sci-fi musical that earned six Tony Award nominations, goes back to the future March 22, when it makes its Off-Off Broadway in a new form — Starmites 2001, a fresh look at the cult show.
The original creative team has returned to the material, about a teen named Eleanor who is mysteriously thrust into her favorite comic book. Composer-lyricist Barry Keating, who co-wrote the book with Stuart Ross, directs the new show, presented by AMAS Musical Theatre in association with Jim Steinman and original Starmites co-producer Mary Keil. Performances began March 14 and continue to April 8 at Theatre 3 in midtown Manhattan.
There is hope in the creative team that the production will generate enough interest to encourage a producer to take the musical to a future commercial staging, according to those close to the production.
In the show, young Eleanor awakes in Innerspace to discover she is the legendary Milady, a teen superhero who must team with the Starmites to save the Universe from the forces of Evil. The cast of otherworldly characters includes the flamboyant Diva, Queen of Innerspace, and her Banshee Warriors, and Spacepunk, a boyish heartthrob. The show is a mix of live action and puppetry inspired by Keating's past work with the late Jim Henson on The Muppet Babies' Magic Box.
Puppet design is by Richard Druther and Jeffrey Wallach, scenic design is by Beowulf Boritt, lighting design is by Aaron Spivey and costume design is by John Russell. The new cast includes Craig Bonacorsi, Chaundra Cameron, Kim Cea, Adam Fleming, Darlene Bel Grayson, Nicole Leach, Eric Millegan, Larry Purifory, Gwen Stewart, Pegg Winter and Jason Wooten.
Starmites originated Off-Broadway and moved to Broadway in the 1988-89 season. It was nominated for a Best Musical Tony Award that year. Liz Larsen, Sharon McNight, Victor Trent Cook, Gabriel Barre and Brian Lane Green appeared in the original cast.
Keating penned a "gospel/rap/rock" version of Jungle Book (written with David Schechter) which played The New Victory Theatre on 42nd Street in 1997. He staged Jim Steinman's Neverland at the Kennedy Center and is currently working on the Jim Steinman-Roman Polanski musical, Dance of the Vampires, aiming toward Broadway in 2002.
Ross created the international musical hit, Forever Plaid, and directed the original staging in Manhattan and subsequent regional productions around the world. He also wrote the Off-Broadway shows The Heebie Jeebies, Not-So-New Faces, Tea With Bea and Fun With Jane: The Musical.
Starmites got a belated original cast recording release in 1998, on the Original Cast Records label. Eight of the cuts on the new CD were recorded in 1989 but not released, according to Bruce Yeko of OCR; six others were recorded in 1998. Tony-nominated Sharon McNight (Best Actress nominee) and Brian Lane Green (Best Actor nominee) are not heard on the CD. Songs from the original show include "Superhero Girl," "Hard to Be a Diva," "Afraid of the Dark," "The Cruelty Stomp" and "The Dance of Spousal Arousal."
Songwriter Keating did not earn a Tony nomination that year; the Best Score category was eliminated for 1989, a season dominated by the retrospective "revuesical," Jerome Robbins' Broadway.
The original Starmites competed for Tonys with Black and Blue (which used standards in its score) and Jerome Robbins' Broadway. Jerome Robbins' won Best Musical.
As for AMAS, composer Gary William Friedman told Playbill On-Line the company intends to mount a revival of The Me Nobody Knows sometime in May.
Tickets to Starmites 2001 are $19 (with $15 for seniors and students). Performances are 8 PM Wednesday Saturday, 3 PM Saturday and Sunday. Theatre 3 is at 311 W. 42nd Street. For ticket information, call (212) 206 1515.
— By Kenneth Jones