Chicago Shakespeare Theater is back this fall with live onstage performances. First up is October’s “As You Like It,” but winter brings the world premiere of the much-anticipated musical “It Came From Outer Space” (originally scheduled for its debut in 2020). As a prologue, Chicago Shakespeare temptingly offers the digitally ambitious “We Are Out There!”
It’s very entertaining, extremely clever and full of superb singers, actors and humor. You might even learn who Eustace Marshall White is.
Written and created by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair (their previous collaboration was the engaging “Murder for Two”) along with creator and editor Daniel Schloss, with orchestration by Macy Schmidt and music direction by Jermaine Hill, this production is an imaginative, self-contained, 45-minute, tongue-in-cheek mockumentary.
Inspired by Kinosian and Blair’s 2016 West Village visit to a screening of the iconic 1953 studio film “It Came From Outer Space,” their musical, Blair said, addresses the “human tendency to be scared of what we don’t understand,” and in 2016, “we’re hearing all this stuff about ‘build a wall, America First,’ and it made me think this movie was ahead of its time, and so progressive for its era.”
Undoubtedly, “E.T.,” “Star Trek” and “Alien” owe their origins to “It Came From Outer Space,” and we certainly all can buy into the question: Is there anyone else out there?
“We Are Out There!” offers eight original songs, with the opening number, “We Are Among You” (“we are there and there and there”), “Prepare Yourself” and “We’ll Still Shine On” my favorites.
The parody revolves around know-it-all professor and astronomer John Putnam’s relationship with his dramatic and entertaining wife, Ellen. By the way, they still look as young and fresh in 2021 as they did in 1953, when “the incident” happened (hmmmm – alien radiation?), but there is much trouble in paradise. There’s also a focus on investigative reporter and narrator Sunny’s quest and her obsessive fascination with the 1953 events in the tiny Arizona town of Sand Rock. But before the story even begins, it offers audition footage and a laugh-out-loud surprising visit from one well-known Broadway star (sorry – no spoilers).
The writers and cast must have had a blast with this one – so full of mirth and tribute! Christopher Kale Jones, long a favorite of mine from his “Jersey Boys” and Marriott appearances, is pseudo-scientist John Putnam. Kale Jones possesses a magnificent and luxurious singing voice and a magically expressive face. He, like the others in this cast, puts his stamp on the role.
Jaye Ladymore, a Chicago-based actress currently appearing in CW’s science fiction “4400,” is a luminous Ellen, and plays her with an “is she/will she?” attitude.
Seven-time Jeff award winner E. Faye Butler’s Coral, the local bar fly (“Who’s buying? Mama’s thirsty …”) and advisor to Ellen, gives another standout performance, with or without the puppets she belts her song out with.
Alex Goodrich is a sweet, downtrodden Sheriff Matt, who proposed to Ellen, and is the epitome of a guitar-playing mustached Western lawman. Even the playwright, Joe Kinosian (so talented), makes appearances playing “Others,” and Cher Álvarez completes the ensemble as Sunny, the NPR-voiced documentarian who narrates “We Are Out There!”
Clever score, fun story, vibrant and talented ensemble – who could ask for anything more? So just let me express my gratitude that Blair, Kinosian and Schloss are out there, and that Chicago Shakespeare Theater is ingenious enough in its vision to bring us this seductive sneak peek.
• Regina Belt-Daniels has never seen a spaceship or other worldly visitors, although she did attend one “Star Trek” convention. A theater veteran for over 50 years, she proudly serves on several theater boards, and can’t wait to get back to acting and directing and being with live audiences again.
IF YOU VIEW
WHAT: “We Are Out There!”
WHEN: Streaming through June 20
COST: $25 ticket; show contains adult language
Source: The Daily Chronicle