If aliens came to visit Earth, would we be proud of our world? James Levy’s joyful sci-fi rock opera puts humanity under the microscope as we observe first contact between a fading rock star and a few very groovy extraterrestrials.
The campy storyline revolves around the impending visit of a group of aliens known as the Visitors, who come bearing goodwill, knowledge, and funky space rock. The production offers an uplifting commentary on the state of humanity, touching on such wide ranging topics as psychology, journalism, physics, and economics. It also emphasizes music’s power to unite and transform. While the script has its share of problems, Levy’s infectious idealism allows the production to smoothly navigate certain head scratching plot points.
The strong ensemble tackles Levy’s lush, acrobatic score and trippy script with fairly consistent success. The singing is impressive across the board, showcasing beautiful harmonies and soulful riffs. The acting is straight out of a B movie, as is much of the quirky dialogue, but this somehow adds to the show’s appeal.
As protagonist Joan, Emily Webbe anchors the show with her powerhouse performance, exhibiting considerable swagger as befits her superstar rocker persona. Randall Holloway gives a riveting, performance as tormented patient Tracy. He screams, growls, cries, and leaves his heart onstage as he wrestles with his inner demons and begs for help from anyone that will listen.
When ET Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest shoots for the stars, achieving most of its lofty goals after a few minor stumbles. Despite some half-formed ideas and stilted speech, the show’s charm and sheer musicality make this space journey worth the trip.
When ET Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest has 3 more performances at Spooky Universe, Universalist National Memorial Church, 1810 16th Street NW, Washington, DC.