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March 29, 2011 > Theatre Review: Starmites delivers a rockin' good time

Theatre Review: Starmites delivers a rockin' good time

By Jay Coleman
Photos By Felicia Ong

Don't be concerned if you've never heard of "Starmites," the high-energy, science fiction rock musical that's playing through April 9 at Irvington High School. And don't be surprised if you walk out of the Valhalla Theatre with a giant grin on your face after watching this gem of a show that is, well, out of this world.

After scoring big in recent years with sure-fire productions such as "A Christmas Carol," "Grease," "Alice in Wonderland" and "Footloose," Irvington Conservatory Theatre Artistic Director Linda Jackson-Whitmore boldly goes where few high schools have gone before by producing "Starmites." The show, from start to finish, is a well-deserved tribute to "Ms. J.," who's retiring in June after 33 years at Irvington.

"Starmites" was nominated for six Tony Awards, including Best Musical, when it opened on Broadway in 1989. Barry Keating's music and lyrics run the gamut from love ballads and spirited gospels to do-wop, rock, hip hop and rock.

The story is a blend of Disneyland's Space Mountain and Mr. Toad's Wild Ride: Eleanor is a shy teen who envisions herself as a super heroine in her Marvel science fiction comic books. She gets drawn into this fantasy world because the Starmites, the guardian angels of Innerspace, believe she is the only person who can protect them from the evil Shak Graa, help them recover The Cruelty-a powerful musical instrument-and save their world from destruction. Along the way, Eleanor, who the Starmites call "Milady," falls in love with Space Punk, butts heads with Diva, the Queen of the Banshees, competes with Diva's daughter Bizarbara and encounters the Starmites' ultra-strange lizard mascot Trinkulus.

Confusing? What part of science fiction do you not understand? Better yet, see the show and get mesmerized by the very funny script, the rockin' musical score and several playful dance numbers.

Sharon Jeong shines as Eleanor, who morphs from mousy, glasses-wearing teen to super heroine and finds the power inside herself. Similarly, her voice seems to get stronger as the story unfolds, and she sparkles on Superhero Girl, Love Duet and If I Had the Power.

As Space Punk, Donald Yu shows ample athleticism, deceptively good vocals-especially harmonizing with Eleanor on Love Duet- and some scene-stealing looks, particularly when he's forced to marry Bizarbara in order to save Eleanor's life. Kelsey Findlay takes over the production as Diva, channeling her inner Bette Midler, Cher and Tina Turner in one song after another. Her booming voice, excellent range and comedic timing put her head and shoulders above anyone else onstage. Look for some very clever scenes in Shriekwood Forrest and Castle Ravenous with her scary Banshee chorus.

Sarah Laus' has great fun as Bizarbara, Diva's plain Jane daughter, who undergoes a transformation into a beautiful Eleanor look-alike. Laus' has many laugh-out-loud scenes, then switches gears and pours herself into tender duets, notably with Diva on Beauty Within.

Two more performances deserve special recognition: Chris Wilson is hilarious as the "walking fungus" lizard Trinkulus (played as kind of a demented Jar Jar Binks); he unveils an impressive voice and dance moves on the Cruelty Stomp. And John Ramirez caps off his senior year with a fine performance as the villain Shak Graa, who's haunting laugh and menacing threats are mixed in with humorous one-liners.

"Starmites" may be the best show you've never heard of, but word-of-mouth should help audiences grow. In fact, it already has attracted one special attendee - "Starmites" playwright and lyricist Barry Keating will be at the March 31 show. Parents of the Irvington cast and crew found Keating's website, invited him to attend and chipped in to pay for his flight. He'll hold a workshop with the cast on March 30, and then watch the show the next night.

Sometimes reality is even more remarkable than science fiction.


"Starmites"

March 31, April 2, 7, 8, 9
7:30 p.m.

April 3
2 p.m.

Irvington High School
Conservatory Theatre
41800 Blacow Road, Fremont
(510) 656-5711
http://www.irvingtonconservatory.org/
Tickets: $10 student w/ASB, $12 student/senior, $15 adult

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