BWW Review: CHRISTMAS ON URANUS: Gold Dust Orphans Launch Laughs In Space
Christmas on Uranus
A Space Opera by Ryan Landry
Written by Ryan Landry, Directed by Kiki Samko; Sets and Costumes, Scott Martino; Lighting Design, Michael Clark Wonson & Emily Bearce; Sound Design, Roger Moore; Sound Mixing and Vocals, Tad McKitterick; Choreography, Rose Garcia; Music Direction, Tim Lawton; Spotlight Operation, Adam Brown; Production Operation, Anzel Lee Miller; Production Assistance, Elektra Newman & Xenia Kamalova
CAST (in order of appearance): Qya Marie, Matt Fear, Tim Lawton, Mark Leahy, Penny Champayne, Kiki Samko, Jessica Barstis, Corey Desjardins, Mark Sikowitz, Sarah Jones, Ryan Landry, Rose Garcia, Seth Cooper, Haley Faye Rosenthal, Dolly the Mustache Pup, Daisy Walker; Additional Voices: Ryan Landry, Scott Martin, Tim Lawton, Tad McKitterick
Performances through December 22 by the Gold Dust Orphans at The Iron Wolf Theatre at the South Boston Lithuanian Citizens Association, Third Floor, 368 West Broadway, South Boston, MA; Tickets: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/4256257
Space, the final frontier, has finally been explored by Ryan Landry and the Gold Dust Orphans, and their little dog, too. Following the trail blazed by her predecessor, the late, beloved Rhoda the dog, Dolly the Mustache Pup has a featured spot in Christmas on Uranus as one of the flying dogs of Pluto. She joins a cast of fifteen humans, many of them veteran Orphans, as they blast off on their mission to rescue Santa Claus from alien kidnappers and save Christmas. It is up to the Robinson Family from "Lost In Space" to track down Saint Nick and return him to Earth in time to make his rounds and bring happiness to children across the world.
Fans of the 1960s television series may recall that the Robinsons were unable to fulfill their mission to find Alpha Centauri, and they suffer many of the same mishaps on this trip. The crew consists of Professor John Robinson (Mark Leahy), his wife Maureen (Penny Champayne), their three children Judy (Kiki Samko), Penny (Jessica Barstis), and Will (Corey Desjardins), and hunky Colonel Don West (Mark Sikowitz). They are aided by their wise-cracking, Sicilian robot Sophia (Sarah Jones), whose daughter Dr. Dorothy Spornak (Ryan Landry) has smuggled herself onboard, leading to countless jokes about her extra weight threatening to throw the Rudolph 2 off-course.
A mastermind at mining movies and musical theater for his maniacal mash-ups, Landry casts his net into the vast pool of sci-fi series this time to fish out his story lines and characters. There's Lt. Uhura (Qya Marie in one of her three powerful roles) from "Star Trek," storm troopers from "Star Wars," references to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "A Christmas Carol," and doubtless numerous other sci-fi franchises that are unfamiliar to me, but each and every one brought vividly to life. A bevy of beautiful and commanding women include Rose Garcia as the Goddess Herma who rules over the armless minions of Venus, Daisy Walker as Princess Di Aria who plots to depose her evil brother Minge The Merkinless (Matt Fear) as Emperor of Uranus, and Marie, who as Black Friday leads the bargain hunting warriors of Mars, and also plays Minge's malodorous aide-de-camp, Lord Sphincter. Tim Lawton reprises his excellent portrayal of Santa Claus, and doubles as the alien Colonel Doggerel, a creature with an appetite for Dorothy.
Samko does her share of scenery chewing as the oversexed teen daughter, but really shows her chops as the director of this madness. In their new venue in the third floor auditorium of the Lithuanian Club in South Boston, the Orphans get a lot of breathing room (and running around room) that was not available at their former home at Machine in the Fenway, and Samko makes good use of the expanded performance space. She also generously gives the ensemble ample opportunities to chew scenery and display their singular talents. Sikowitz makes the most of the running gag of removing his shirt and baring his chest whenever West has to save the day. Champayne repeatedly hugs the curtain dramatically each time Maureen expresses her fear, and competes with Landry for the mantle of throwing the best deadpan stares at the audience.
The award for best costume goes to Sophia, and Jones does a masterful job of combining the vocal characteristics of the Golden Girl with the physical execution of the robot. Martino's set is evocative of the deck of the Starship Enterprise and he has also designed a fabulous range of costumes, from space suits for the Robinsons to bizarre alien onesies. Props include light sabers, weapons, and inflatable space vehicles. All of the adventures are enhanced by lighting designers Michael Clark Wonson and Emily Bearce, and sound designer Roger Moore and sound mixer Tad McKitterick. Garcia's eclectic choreography supports the musical numbers and features dancing aliens, and even a tap dance. Lawton is music director and has a great collection of voices on hand. Santa croons a couple ("Ground Control," "Time in New England"), Black Friday and her furry troops belt about holiday shopping ("War"), and Will pleads in song that he not have to go home (Darlene Love's "Christmas - Baby Please Come Home").
Landry's clever script for Christmas on Uranus is chock full of shtick and jokes, many of them groan-worthy, but exactly what the Gold Dust Orphans' audiences have come to expect and even demand. Even in this larger space that would seem to diminish the forced intimacy of their old home, there is a communal quality to the experience. The little gaffes, the unscripted moments, and the genuine esprit de corps on stage make everyone in the house feel like we're all in this together. Sitting shoulder to shoulder, touched by the laughter of the person in the next seat, and enjoying the finale of "Carol of the Bells," we are all Orphans. God bless us everyone!
Photo credit: Michael von Redlich (The Cast of Christmas on Uranus)