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Jason Graae and More Lead RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET, Beginning Tonight at Rubicon

Jason Graae and More Lead RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET, Beginning Tonight at Rubicon

Rubicon Theatre Company presents RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET, a fabulously campy send up of "Forbidden Planet" and other sci-fi film and TV shows of the 1950s which melds plot elements from The Tempest with language from multiple plays by Shakespeare.

Set on a spaceship sometime in the future, the show features a galaxy of 1950's and 1960's rock and roll classics, including "Wipeout," "Good Vibrations," "Great Balls of Fire," "All Shook Up," "Monster Mash" and "We Gotta Get Out of this Place."

The out-of-this-world musical blasts off in Ventura just in time for Halloween - with a gala costume party on Saturday, October 29 at 7:00 p.m. followed by an after-party at Skating Plus. Low-priced previews are tonight, October 26, through October 28. The show runs Wednesdays through Sundays through November 13.

RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET is directed and choreographed by Kirby Ward, who has directed or performed in 65 theatrical productions and concerts, from the showrooms of Las Vegas to London's West End where he received a "Best Actor" Olivier Award nomination for the premiere of Crazy For You. The cast of RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET features returning Rubicon veterans Jason Graae (Broadway's A Grand Night for Singing, Rubicon's Merrily We Roll Along), Kimberly Hessler (My Fair Lady), CALEB HORST (Merrily We Roll Along), Harley Jay (Hello! My Baby), Rebecca Ann Johnson (Little Miss Scrooge), Craig McEldowney (Babes in Arms), and JAMES O'NEIL (Clarence Darrow); with Martin Landry making his Rubicon debut (and doubling as Associate Musical Director). Ushers who will double as Flight Crew Members are Jesse Graham (Crew Head) of Santa Paula, Madeline Gambon of Camarillo, Stephen Russell of Ventura, and LUCY WILLHITE of Oak View. Ensign and band members are Musical Director TREVOR WHEETMAN and Omar D. Brancato on Bass.

Winner of the Olivier Award for Best Musical, RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET follows the adventures of the dashing spaceship captain Tempest and his crew, who hit a meteor shower and are then mysteriously drawn off course to the planet D'Illyria. There they discover the mad scientist Dr. Prospero and his beautiful daughter Miranda, along with the robot Ariel. As a romance develops between Captain Tempest and Miranda, a monster threatens the spaceship, and a sacrifice is made to ensure everyone's safety.

RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET was created and directed by Bob Carlton, who completed his 17-year tenure as Artistic Director at the Queen's Theatre in Essex, UK with a revival of the production in 2014. The show began at the Bubble Theatre Company in England as an open-air performance in a tent. A revised in-door production appeared at The Everyman Theatre in Liverpool and the Tricycle Theatre in London. It final version opened at the Cambridge Theatre in London's West End on September 11, 1989. It won the Olivier Award for Best New Musical for both 1989 and 1990. The production is currently enjoying a 25th anniversary U.K. tour helmed by Carlton.

Low-priced previews for RETURN TO THE FORBIDDEN PLANET are Halloween week - Wednesday, October 26 at 7 p.m., Thursday, October 27 at 8 p.m. and Friday, October 28 at 8 p.m. Opening night is Saturday, October 29, at 7 p.m. with a post-show party hosted by SKATING PLUS. The production continues Wednesdays at 2 and 7 p.m., Thursdays and Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through November 13. All performances are at Rubicon Theatre, 1006 E. Main Street in Ventura's Downtown Cultural District (the corner or Main and Laurel). For tickets, go towww.rubicontheatre.org or call (805) 667-2900. Regular tickets range from $35 to $64 plus a $4 service fee, depending on day of the week and time. Special pricing for students with ID are $30; Equity members and military are $35. There is a $5 discount for seniors 65 and older. The opening night is a benefit performance, with tickets at $95 (price includes a tax-deductible contribution). For tickets, call (805) 667-2900, Monday-Sunday, noon to 6:00 pm, or visit www.rubicontheatre.org.

ABOUT THE CAST:

Jason Graae (Ariel the Robot) was last seen at Rubicon in the concert version of Sondheim's Merrily We Roll Along. Jason was featured on Broadway in A Grand Night for Singing, Falsettos, Stardust, Snoopy! and Do Black Patent Leather Shows Really Reflect Up?. Off-Broadway credits include Forever Plaid, Olympus on My Mind, All in the Timing, Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh (Drama Desk Nomination - Best Actor in a Musical) and many more. He has performed his one-man cabaret show all over the country, from Rainbow and Stars and Birdland in NYC to Feinstein's and the Plush Room in L.A. and San Francisco, winning 4 Bistro Awards, a N.Y. Nightlife Award and TimeOut NY's award for Top Cabaret Show of the Year. His show with Faith Prince The Prince and the Showboy was recently seen at 54 Below, and the pair won a second Nightlife Award for Best Duo. Jason has hosted the Bistro Awards, The NYC MAC Awards, the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards, and the Robby Awards. In L.A., Jason won a second L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award - the Joel Hirschorn Award for Outstanding Achievement in Musical Theatre. He won an Ovation Award for Forbidden Broadway Y2KLA!, an Artistic Director's Achievement Award for Fully Committed, and an Indy Award for High Button Shoes at Rubicon. Jason originated the role of Houdini in the L.A. production of Ragtime at the Shubert Theatre. At the Hollywood Bowl, he was Benny Southstreet in Guys and Dolls and Marcellus in The Music Man. On television, Jason has appeared on many shows including "Six Feet Under," "Rude Awakening," "Friends," "Frasier," "Sabrina the Teenage Witch," "Living Single," "Caroline in the City," "Providence," and more. On PBS, he was a guest soloist twice with the Boston Pops and once with Marvin Hamlisch and the National Symphony. Movie appearances include the title role in "Sunshine Barry and the Disco Worms," Disney's "Home on the Range," "On Edge," "Gepetto," "The Dukes of Hazzard in Hollywood" and "Awakening of Spring." He has been heard on many cartoons and for 5-1/2 years he was the voice of the Leprechaun for Lucky Charms Cereal. Jason Made his Metropolitan Opera debut as the male vocalist in Twyla Tharp's Everlast with the American Ballet Theatre. He made his L.A. Opera debut as Njegus in The Merry Widow, repeating the role in Detroit (with Deborah Voigt), Dallas, New Orleans and Houston. Also with L.A. Opera, he was featured as Offenbach in The Grand Duchess, directed by Garry Marshall. He has played Frosch in Die Fledermaus with the Washington National Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera and Manhattan School of Music. After Return to the Forbidden Planet, Jason returns to San Francisco as Scrooge in Scrooge in Love, for which he was nominated for a Bay Area Critics Circle Award for Best Actor in a Musical.

Kimberly Hessler (Miranda) was last seen at Rubicon as Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady. She recently appeared as Johanna in Sweeney Todd at the Human Race Theatre Company. A recent graduate of USC (where she majored in Vocal Arts and minored in Musical Theatre), Kimberly was a finalist for L.A.'s Next Great Stage Star 2014. Other theatre credits include Mary BennetPride and Prejudice as Mary Bennet, LES MISERABLES as Cosette and the 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee as Olive.

CALEB HORST (Cookie) was last at Rubicon in the concert version of Merrily We Roll Along. He is a graduate of Emerson College in Boston, and has a B.F.A. in Musical Theater.

Harley Jay (Captain Tempest) was last seen at Rubicon in Hello! My Baby. Harley recently appeared as Reginald in FOX's "Grease Live." He played Mark Cohen in Rent on Broadway and also performed in the National Tour. He also appeared in the National Tour of Miss Saigon. Harley and his band (Harley Jay) have opened for such acts as Rick Springfield, Eddie Money, The Gin Blossoms, Marc Broussard, Jana Kramer and Wilson Phillips.

Rebecca Ann Johnson (Gloria, The Science Officer) returns to Rubicon having appeared in the Gershwin concert event, Who Could Ask for Anything More, and starred in Little Miss Scrooge. Other South Coast credits include Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and Singin' in the Rain for Musical Theatre West in Long Beach, and co-starring roles "The Big Bang Theory" and "The Mindy Project" on Hulu.

Martin Landry (The Navigation Officer/ Associate Musical Director) has worked Off-Broadway, regionally, and on national tours, either as an actor, musician, music director or a combination of those three things. Recent credits include the First National Tour of Murder For Two, the second American production of The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance as Ransome Foster in Wichita, KS, and music director for Real Men at New World Stages in NYC. As a writer, his musical Esther (co-written with his wife Janice Landry) has been performed over 50 times around the world.

Craig McEldowney (Bosun) has been seen at Rubicon in the concert presentations of Babes in Arms as Valentine and The Secret Garden as Neville. He recently appeared in regional productions of Peter and the Starcatcher at Barn Stage, A Class Act as Hamlisch at Coachella Valley Repertory, Sweeney Todd at Ensemble Theatre Company, Ragtime with 3D Theatricals and Show Boat with Opera San Luis Obispo. Craig has toured as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and Doody in Grease. He has appeared on "Fameless" and "Law & Order: SVU." Craig is a graduate of the University of Michigan Musical Theatre Department.

JAMES O'NEIL (Dr. Prospero/Rubicon Co-Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus) recently appeared on the Rubicon Stage in the one-person play Clarence Darrow, which was recently voted Best Production of the Year by readers of the Ventura County Reporter. Jim is co-founder of Rubicon (with his wife Karyl Lynn Burns). Rubicon acting credits include the Stage Manager in Our Town, Claudius in Hamlet (Indy Award), Merdle The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come in Little Miss Scrooge, Michael in Dancing at Lughnasa, Prince Escalus in Romeo and Juliet and Andrew in Love Letters (opposite Burns). Other acting credits include Pontius Pilate in the National Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar starring Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson, John Adams in 1776, John in Lips Together, Teeth Apart, The Duke/Dr. Carrasco in Man of La Mancha, Henry David Thoreau in The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail, Adam in the first workshop of Dale Wasserman's Western Star, and a season with Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Jim May be heard as Czar Nicholas II on the concept album "Rasputin" (narrated by John Hurt with Ted Neeley as Rasputin and Amanda McBroom as Alexandra) and as Quasimodo on "Quasimodo, Prince of Fools". Jim is Author/Director of the recent Off-Broadway hit Lonesome Traveler: A Journey Down the Rivers and Streams of American Folk (New York Drama Desk/Outer Critics Circle nominations), which originated at Rubicon. Under Jim's artistic leadership, Rubicon received the Drama Desk Award for The Best is Yet to Come: The Music of Cy Coleman, conceived and directed by David Zippel, and the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for "Sustained Excellence."

TREVOR WHEETMAN (Music Director/Ensign) returns to the Rubicon stage having previously appeared in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and the follow-up concert Songs from the West and Beyond co-starring his wife Sylvie Davidson. He has also been seen at Rubicon in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol and Lonesome Traveler. A multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, Trevor has brought his musicianship to the theatre as a music director (Lonesome Traveler at Laguna Playhouse and Off-Broadway), performer (Fire on the Mountain at Seattle Rep, Ain't Nothin' But the Blues at Portland Center Stage, and Jesus' Son at Book-It Repertory Theatre), and composer (The Glass Project at Cornish College of the Arts). His original works have also appeared on film and television. Most recently, he composed and performed the score for the short film "Drift." Trevor and Sylvie live in Nashville.

Omar D. Brancato (Ensign/Bass) composed the music/lyrics to the NCTF award winning Beauty and the Beast (Best Score, Best Musical), The Boys Next Door (incidental music, Chicago revival), Hogpatch Holler (orchestrations/additional music), and The Talking Dead in Holiday Park, Haßloch, Germany. Film Scores include "Out Of Luck," "Hollywood Gamble," "The Michelle Show" (Best Score nomination, Austin WebFest) and "Monster Heroes" (additional music). As an arranger/orchestrator, he's put the notes in order for Ford Motor Company, Hewlett Packard, McDonald's, Gypsy of the Year, Seibel Systems, Ocean Park Hong Kong, Universal Studios in Hollywood and Singapore and the Bellagio and Mirage Hotels in Las Vegas as well as multiple BC/EFA Benefits.

Jesse Graham (Flight Crew/Dance Captain), a resident of Santa Paula, recently appeared in the concert version of Merrily We Roll Along at Rubicon. Jesse also starred in Rubicon's summer's education production of In the Heights as Usnavi. He has previously performed in Rubicon's mainstage productions of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, My Fair Lady and A Rubicon Family Christmas. Other stage credits include The Baker in Into the Woods, Action in West Side Story, Gangster #1 in The Drowsy Chaperone, the title role in Tarzan, King Ferdinand in Love's Labour's Lost, Kurt in The Sound of Music and Ensemble for both Sweeney Todd and Beauty and the Beast. He also makes multiple appearances as a bass/baritone in the Rubicon Harmonix. Jesse studies voice with Linda Ottsen and is currently training in ballet and contemporary dance. Jesse was recognized by the Mayor and City of San Buenaventura for his participation in the Rubicon Harmonix for spreading joy through music.

Madeline Gambon (Flight Crew) returns to the Rubicon stage where she previously appeared as Silly Girl in Beauty and the Beast Jr. Mulan in Mulan Jr. and as Little Ti Moune in Once on This Island. She was also featured in A Rubicon Family Christmas (2012-13). Other credits include featured Dancer in Carrie, Gertrude McFuzz in Seussical the Musical and Charlotte in 13 the Musical.

Stephen Russell (Flight Crew) was recently seen at Rubicon in the summer youth production of In the Heights. He graduated from Ventura High School this year where he appeared as Ponyboy in The Outsiders, Zeke in High School Musical, Rodrigo in Little Women, and participated in three shows under the direction of Stefoni Rossiter and Heidi House. He is a student at Ventura College.

LUCY WILLHITE (Flight Crew) started performing at the age of nine and has performed in twelve local productions. She was last seen in Rubicon's production of In the Heights where she also served as Dance Captain. Lucy studies dance at the Camarillo Academy of Performing Arts (CAPA), and trains with Asunta Fleming (Voice Studio LA) and Mark Durso (ActTrue). She studied this past summer with the Joffrey Ballet School NYC. Lucy's TV/film credits include a supporting role on "Better Things" as well as extra work. This past year she made her directorial debut with her film "Act I."

ABOUT THE DIRECTORS:

Kirby Ward (Director/Choreographer) previously directed and choreographed She Loves Me for Rubicon. He also appeared on the Rubicon stage earlier this season in Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance opposite his wife Beverly Ward as part of the Goldenson Broadway Concert Series. A veteran of over 65 theatrical productions, he's performed for the Queen of England and appeared as Bob Hope at the Library of Congress' 100th Birthday celebration of the comic's life. As the original Bobby Child in the London West End premiere of Crazy For You, he received an Olivier Award nomination and later a Helen Hayes Award nomination at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Kirby has been featured on Broadway in Show Boat, Woman of the Year and Never Gonna Dance. He has played many of the world's showrooms with luminaries such as Debbie Reynolds, Phyllis Diller, Shecky Green and Bill Cosby. He's danced a duet with the legendary Harold Nicholas and shared comic turns with Donald O'Connor. Ward has appeared in concert with symphonies all over the world from the Hollywood Bowl to Hong Kong. Kirby has written for television and film, most recently winning Best Short Film at the Kent Film Festival for his original film "Down in the Mouth," a movie he wrote, directed and edited.

Beverly Ward (Associate Director) recently appeared in Rubicon's concert version of Merrily We Roll Along and co-starred with her husband Kirby in Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance from the 2015-16 Broadway Concert Series. She also seen at Rubicon as Ilona in She Loves Me, under the direction of Kirby Ward. Beverly and Kirby have collaborated as a creative team in venues all over the world. Her theatre credits include Epic Proportions on Broadway, and Off-Broadway A Child's Christmas in Wales. In London she was seen in Crazy For You. Beverly has also been in the National Tours of Billy Elliot as Mum, Crazy For You as Polly Baker (Helen Hayes nomination), Hal Prince's Show Boat as Ellie May Chipley and Sugar Babies with Mickey Rooney and Anne Miller. Her first singer-songwriter EP was released in early 2016. Kirby and Bev are also combining forces to write musicals. To date, they have adapted His Girl Friday, created an original musical titled Dancing As Fast As We Can (which they were invited to present at the NY Fringe), and most recently began developing the Oscar Wilde short story, "Lord Arthur Savile's Crime." Lord Arthur Savile's Crime has been presented as a reading at the Wilton Playshop, the York Theatre, as part of The Village Theatre's Festival of New Musicals and at From Page To Stage in London's West End.

Rubicon Theatre Company is a non-profit regional theatre based in Ventura, California. True to the name and the vision of founders Karyl Lynn Burns and James O'Neil, the company is committed to providing a nurturing environment for artists where exploration and experimentation are encouraged and supported. Now in its 19th Season, Rubicon has earned a reputation for innovative, reinvigorated productions of classics; and for the development of new works. The company has presented more than 115 diverse mainstage productions to more than 420,000 audience members. Described by critics as "the rising star of the Southern California cultural scene" and the "best theatre between Los Angeles and San Francisco," the company has won a New York Drama Desk Award (four nominations), the L.A. Drama Critics Circle Award for "Sustained Excellence," 14 Ovation Awards, a NAACP Award, and multiple Indy, Garland and Robby Awards. Luminaries such as Susan Clark, Dana Delaney, Bonnie Franklin, Joel Grey, Gregory Harrison, Bill Irwin, Harold Gould, Larry Hagman, Stacy Keach, Michael Learned, Ted Neeley, Paul Provenza, Linda Purl, Joe Spano, Bruce Weitz, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and Stephanie Zimbalist have graced the Rubicon stage. Jack Lemmon and John Ritter made their final stage appearances with Rubicon.



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