Stars on the Moon: 9 Shows to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Lunar Landing

Lists   Stars on the Moon: 9 Shows to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Lunar Landing
 
From Spaceman Off-Broadway in 2019 to the Andy Warhol-produced Man on the Moon in the ‘60s, these cosmos-set shows are out of this world.
The-cast-of-Return-to-the-Forbidden-Planet.-Photo-Credit-Nobby-Clark.jpg
Cast of Return to the Forbidden Planet Nobby Clark

On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 touched down on the moon and Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first humans to set foot on it.

To celebrate the anniversary, Playbill has gathered a list of space–related shows ranging from operas set on the moon to an Olivier Award–winning musical.

A scene from Via Galactica.
A scene from Via Galactica.

One of the most ambitious Broadway musicals to take the stage in the '70s was Via Galactica, starring Raúl Julia (The Addams Family) and Irene Cara (Fame). The set included trampolines, suspended walkways, a flying spacecraft, and backdrop made up on ping-pong balls for hi-tech projections. The show, following a band of exiles living on an asteroid in the year 2972, had a book by Christopher Gore and Judith Ross, lyrics by Gore, and music by Galt MacDermot (Hair), and opened November 28, 1972, at the Uris (now Gershwin) Theatre.

Man on the Moon, written by John Phillips of the Mamas & The Papas, directed by Paul Morrisey, and produced by Andy Warhol, opened at Little (now Helen Hayes) Theater January 29, 1975. The musical follows an American astronaut who must save the world after an evil scientist plants a bomb on the moon. In 2009, a cast album was released through Varèse Sarabande and is currently available on Spotify.

Through August 4, The Kennedy Center celebrates the moon landing with Earthrise, an original play by Lauren Gunderson directed by Dawn Monique Williams. It follows three children of NASA employees in various departments who watch the launch of Apollo 11. The play features music and lyrics by Kait Kerrigan and Brian Lowdermilk, and examines the awe and suspense that came with the mission to land a man on the moon. More information is available at KennedyCenter.org.

Earlier this year, Leegrid Stevens' Off-Off-Broadway play Spaceman gave audiences a look at traveling through the solar system as Molly journeys solo for eight months in an attempt to be the first person to reach Mars. The show celebrates the wonders of science, but also examines the psychological toll from spending an extended time alone in a confined space.

READ: How Award-Winning Designers Created a Zero Gravity Set for New York’s Most High-Tech New Show

Return to the Forbidden Planet is a ‘50s & ‘60s jukebox musical, written by Bob Carlton, following Captain Tempest and his space crew. After landing on the mysterious planet D'Illyria. There, they meet a mad scientist and his daughter (plus their robot), who have a secret connection the new visitors. The show debuted in the West End at Cambridge Theatre in 1989, winning the Olivier Award for Best New Musical. It’s become a cult favorite among musical theatre enthusiasts thanks to its mixture of sci-fi with rock 'n' roll hits like "Great Balls of Fire," "The Shoop Shoop Song (It’s In His Kiss)" and "Pretty Woman."

Vito Dieterle, Ethan Lipton, and Ian M. Riggs
Vito Dieterle, Ethan Lipton, and Ian M. Riggs Joan Marcus

In 2017, The Public Theater hosted the world premiere of The Outer Space, written by Ethan Lipton with music composed and performed by Lipton, Vito Dieterle, Eben Levy, and Ian Riggs. Leigh Silverman directed the production, about a couple who leave Earth in order to find a better place to live. The show earned for a Lucille Lortel Award nomination.

In 2017, Opéra De Paris mounted a production of La Bohème, set in the future on the moon, directed by Claus Guth. You can see photos from the production below.

The '90s saw Phillip Glass and David Henry Hwang create The Voyage, a three-act opera that celebrates the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' discovery of America. Rather than center the show on him, however, the team focused on exploration through space and time. (Glass also wrote The Making of the Representative for Planet 8, which debuted in the '80s.)

Looking for more shows that are out of this world? Check out the 14 Shows That Merged Science Fiction With Musical Theatre.

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