Lovers Face Doomsday in Sci-Fi Space Musical 'Earthbound'

Sky Pilot Theatre's futuristic post-apocalyptic musical (yes, you read that right, post-apocalyptic musical), Earthbound, is playing at TU Studios in North Hollywood. Set in a satellite orbiting a non-habitable, nuclear war-ravaged Earth, the plot follows a team of trapped astronauts faced with their own mortality and the extinction of homo sapiens. Falling somewhere between Buck Rogers, Crimson Tide, and the Heaven's Gate cult, Earthbound is a unique and suspenseful doomsday premonition infused with philosophical after-life questioning all set to song by a talented and engaging cast.

We love Adam Hahn's clever, science fiction meets theology Earthbound book. While new musical theatre is taking more and more creative leaps than before, it is still quite rare to come across one that takes the route of tragedy. It is wonderfully refreshing to see such successfully staged risk-taking on Hahn's part. Not only does he question the merit and logic of a generally-accepted belief in the existence of an after-life, but he folds chivalry, moral responsibility, love, yearning, instinct, suicide, doomed mortality, and selflessness into his narrative as well.

Earthbound is billed as an "electronica musical," which lead us to expect an edgy and modern score, but Jonathan Price's music has more of a melodic, retro, 1960s synthesized space music sort of sound. Price's score is definitely more in the vein of Isao Tomita than Daft Punk. While far from unlistenable or unlikeable, the cutesy and frequently-rhymed lyrics by Chana Wise were less to our liking than the other elements of the production.

The entire Earthbound cast — JR Esposito, Jason Kobielus, Lindsey Mixon, Allison Perkins, Mackenzie English, Samatha Macher, Chera Holland, and Ashley Fuller — gives excellent performances. Coupled with solid acting and dramatic exectution, their well-trained voices dovetail into one another with strong, broad, and full resonance. Esposito and Holland give superb, stand-out performances that are not to be missed. Mixon brings the boisterous energy of a caffeinated firecracker to the stage. Playing the (literally) star-crossed lovers, Kobielus and Perkins deliver their performances with understated, subtle meaningfulness. English and Macher have a zany best-friend chemistry that is fun and very crowd-pleasing. Finally, playing the voice of space station Miami, Fuller is appropriately creepy and sweetly ominous.

Christian Levatino's direction of Earthbound is top-notch. Truth be told, it is very hard to pull off any musical, and even harder to do one that is smaller in scale; but Levatino really rises to this challenge to deliver a luscious and rich story set to song. Despite its sing-songy tone, Earthbound is not for emotional pussies. While attending a performance, we witnessed several audience members become completely overwhelmed by the narratives presented in the show. While not the reaction of most, by our standards, if a show overwhelms some of the audience, you are doing something right. That is exactly what theatre is supposed to do. Theatre SHOULD engage the soul.

Earthbound is playing through July 15 at TU Studios. Tickets are $20 and available online, at the door, or via phone at 800-838-3006.