A group of marauding performers have invaded Perth and set up camp at the Phoenix Theatre in Hamilton Hill. They are armed with an impressive lighting array, colourful costumes, tap shoes and a storyline straight out of 1950s B grade science fiction films. But that’s okay because the brains of the operation Ryan McNally says it’s all a spoof and good old fashioned fun. Audience members are advised to abandon all caution and rush to check out the final week of shows. Be warned though, the weak among you may not be able to resist the devilish alien brain tap, or their leader’s seductive hand gestures, or even a skin tight jumpsuit that would make Olivia Newton-John at the end of Grease blush!
Yes, there are aliens among us. Well, if we were in the San Fernando Valley back in 1958 that is. They have evolved to an advanced state where human trifles such as love, emotion, and the family unit are not only redundant but signs of weakness. Their leader, a walking, talking brain (Cody Fullbrook) and his two alien henchmen, the bickering Zubrick (Glenn Wallis) and Yoni (Kate Lloyd) set out to dominate the Earth by destroying such traits in humans. They will achieve this by use of the mind bender which, um, bends minds. This ingenious plot is known as Plan 10 (from Outer Space) as aliens are clearly the only creatures in the universe to appreciate the talents of Ed Wood.
The target of their dastardly plot is the Bunson family, headed up by inventor-dad Fred (Gary Devries), his wife Joyce (Sylvia Mellor) and wilful teenage daughter Donna (Mikaela Innes) who is enamoured of wannabe beatnik poet Rod (Krispin Maesalu). Fred’s father-in-law Professor Leder urges the career minded General Mills (Mario Piccoli) to show caution as there might be many things we could learn from our extra-terrestrial guests. But the one star General, assisted by Private Parts (Jordan Norrish), only has one thing on his mind – to add more stars to his chest… oh, and save the world.
It’s a pretty thin plot but that’s part of the gag. All the bad science fiction tropes are in there with mind control, evil aliens, an incompetent military, an obligatory twist (that was obvious to anyone with even a passing familiarity to such tales), the salt-of-the-earth family under threat, and futuristic technology like the kooky force field that protects the alien spacecraft. A Narrator (Shaun Griffin) sets the scene which in and of itself is a parody of the sort of exposition usually doled out in movie voiceover. The fourth wall is constantly broken and there is even audience participation! Alas, The Brain deemed me “too old” to undergo the brain tap which was unfortunate as man, that Yoni may be an alien hell-bent on world domination but she was incandescent.
Oddly for a musical the singing was uneven with greater emphasis seemingly given to the comic performances. In the singing stakes, however, Mellor (recently seen in Xanadu as a pit singer) as Joyce and young Innes as Donna were the standouts. Devries was corny fun as the Dad and largely carries the first act but mostly disappears in the second due to the inevitable demands of plot machinations. Fullbrook is a playful Brain and his hand gestures are truly mesmerising (the man must have wrists of steel!). That’s without even mentioning the wonderful prosthetic brain he sports. The costuming and makeup throughout is colourful and inventive.
Wallis plays the obsequious Zubrick with amusing snark and has a late second act transformation that had echoes of Sir Lancelot from Spamalot. Lloyd is mischievous and sassy as all get out as the man hungry alien Yoni and looks fabulous in a selection of figure hugging outfits. These aliens are all tall and far too damn attractive!
There is a supporting ensemble of some 20 performers so it’s a big cast for a community theatre show. The lighting was especially impressive though there were times in the second act that shining it into the eyes of the audience at key moments was a little overused. The four piece band at the front of the stage (right) were well led by Josh Haines and didn’t overpower the singers who were a tad low on volume to begin with for my tastes.
Highlights included Innes’ Good Girl/Bad Girl; Joyce’s refusal to be the subservient wife after her mind had been bent (Things Are Going To Change Around Here); The Brain Tap where audience member Ryan revealed, admittedly against his will, the stupidity of the human race; a very sexy I Need An Earthman by Lloyd; and Wallis’ complementary, surprise revelation, All About Men. The Brain’s Song was also a hoot with Fullbrook a most endearing villain. The tap dance in the second act with Fullbrook, Lloyd, Wallis and 6 members of the ensemble was excellent.
Directed by Ryan McNally with Musical Direction by Krispin Maesalu and Choreography by Jayde Clark, The Brain From Planet X was a real lark. The cast were all having fun as was the audience with no better example than when an enthusiastic person in the front row ‘stole’ a line from a mid-pause Fullbrook. He played along to create one of those wonderfully spontaneous moments in the theatre you couldn’t recreate if you tried.
If you’re wondering whether to go see this then the time is nigh (yes, nigh!) – there are only three more performances left, 8pm 25-27 September at the Phoenix Theatre in Hamilton Hill.