Starmites is an intergalactic, science-fiction, space-age, humorous, Tony Award-nominated musical from the 1980s. And if that is a mouthful, get ready for a crazy ride. This new production by the Open Fist Theatre Company, presents a black box theatre version but is still chock-a-block with amusing, slapstick, campy and corny fun.

The show opens with a tableau of the Starmites quartet of crusaders, posing over the bedroom of a nerdy teenage girl and her stack of comic books. Talia Gloster plays earth daughter Eleanor, in an understated, yet rebellious portrayal of the misunderstood, introverted adolescent. It is a taste of things to come, as she pleasantly sings her fantasy of becoming a feminist superhero, while coping in the real world. After being consoled by her mother, lovingly played by Cat Davis, Eleanor escapes back into her comic books. Appearing at first to hear voice, she is magically transported to another world. There, Eleanor teams up with the team of Starmites in a quest to save the galaxy.

STARMITES - Talia Gloster - Photo by Jenny Graham

STARMITES – Talia Gloster – Photo by Jenny Graham

One of the Starmites is actor Bradley Sharperas the leader Space Punk who channels a 50s doowop singer. He is aided by his crew of underling defenders entertainingly played by Rieves Bowers, Alex Hogy, and understudy Emily Rafala. Throughout the show, their commitment to saving the day is coupled with slapstick humor and amusing asides to the audience.

Appearing again in the alien world, Davis takes on the characters of the hardcore space mother, Diva, and head of the extraterrestrial Banshees. Her alien daughter, Biazarbar, is also played by Gloster. The show stealing Davis ramps up the energy in the evening’s most memorable musical number, HARD TO BE A DIVA. With great comedic timing, she is backed up by a wild Greek chorus of Banshee women performed expertly by Elle Engelman, Lindsey Moore Ford, Sarah Martellaro, and Sophie Oda.

STARMITES - The Ensemble - Photo by Jenny Graham

STARMITES – The Ensemble – Photo by Jenny Graham

The duality of mother and daughter in two disparate worlds is the core of this zany story. Also, as the play progresses, a romance blossoms between Eleanor and leader Space Punk who, during their travels, meet Trinkulus, who is deftly personified by Jack David Sharpe in a remarkable contortionist embodiment of a lizard. Everyone is caught in a battle for a superweapon called “Cruelty,” which is actually an electric guitar. Together, the Starmites attempt to kill the evil Darth Vader-like villain Shak Graa who is also played by Sharpe after making a surprise metamorphosis from lizard to monster.

STARMITES - Shak Graa - Photo by Jenny Graham

STARMITES – Shak Graa – Photo by Jenny Graham

Rather than musical theater singers and dancers, the ensemble consists of primarily actors who, with much mugging and chewing of scenery, aptly portray the cartoon cliché of superheroes battling the evil forces. The singers, however, could fare better with a little less improvisational riffing and sticking to the more straight-forward melodies. Starmites is a comic book that comes to life in this epic quest reminiscent of cult-like musicals of the 70s and 80s such as Rocky Horror Picture Show.

The original music and lyrics by Barry Keating and book by Stuart Ross and Keating, remains entertaining and largely untouched. Led by music director Jan Roper, the talented three-piece band skillfully sustains an 80s techno sound throughout the various musical style genres. Director Scott Peterman has also created shows for Bon Jovi and he teaches design and fashion at Parsons. While he is a bit broad and presentational, Peterman adequately juggles the small stage and large cast to preserve the silly, zany aspects of the show. There is, however, a missed opportunity of gender play which causes Starmites to appear somewhat dated and stuck in the 1980’s. Peterman does utilize the entire stage and the minimal set designed by Stephanie Crothers. He highlights the trio of large screens filled with creative cartoons and 3D animations, designed by Peterman and Linda Strawberry. The inspired projections and lighting by Gavan Wyrick combine to become yet another character in the story.

STARMITES - Sarah Martellaro, Elle Engelman, Talia Gloster, Sophie Oda and Lindsey Moore Ford - Photo by Jenny Graham

STARMITES – Sarah Martellaro, Elle Engelman, Talia Gloster, Sophie Oda and Lindsey Moore Ford – Photo by Jenny Graham

Given the cast’s limited dance abilities, Becca Sweitzer’s choreography was simple yet effective. She created entertaining arrangements that referenced styles from 1950s music groups, jazz, Broadway, hip-hop, and street dance. The fight scenes, choreographed by Jacob Grigolia-Rosenbaum & Emma Bruno, hit their mark. The costume design by Linda Muggeridge creatively bridged the earth and alien worlds with a wink to retro-period song groups.

Starmites has been extended through July 23, 2023 and plays at the Atwater Village Theatre in the ATX (Atwater Crossing) Complex.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please click HERE.

Written by Anthony Marciona for LA Dance Chronicle.

Featured image: STARMITES – Jasper Wong, Alex Hogy, Bradley Sharper and Rieves Bowers – Photo by Jenny Graham