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Porthouse Theater’s ‘Starmites’ is a light summer treat perfect for after the pi

Eleanor (Lucy Anders) pleads with her mother (Colleen Longshaw) to not throw away her beloved comic books.
Eleanor (Lucy Anders) pleads with her mother (Colleen Longshaw) to not throw away her beloved comic books.
Andy Eicher

Starmites

Rating:
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Summertime is that part of the year when we have the tendency to “lighten up”. It shows up in the food we like such as cold wraps, cold pasta salads, chilled water, wine and tea as well as s’mores. We are more active with walking, jogging, bicycling and gardening. There is less TV time and more family time.

Nerdy comic book obsessed Eleanor sees herself as a social misfit.
Porthouse Theater

This is probably why Porthouse Theater is so popular in the summer. It is basically a picnic with a show attached. Most of the patrons arrive early and enjoy the gentle summer breezes in the pavilions and at the various picnic tables sprinkled around the complex. It’s time to catch up with old friends over a light meal and simply relax and enjoy being alive. What better show to match this mellow setting then “Starmites”.

“Starmites” began life as an off-off Broadway show in 1980 later to hit off Broadway in 1987 and then the big time (for all of 60 performances) in 1989. The music and lyrics are by Berry Keating with book by Stuart Ross and Keating. Nominated for six Tony awards, alas it did not win any in spite of a weak competition that year.

The show is about nerdy comic book obsessed Eleanor who sees herself as a social misfit. Her mother blames the comic books and has Eleanor pack them up for sale to the local comic book emporium. At this point Eleanor “spaces out” and ends up in “Inner Space” where she meets the Starmites; Herbie Harrison, Dazzle Razzledorf, Ack Ack Ackerman and their leader Spacepunk who are convinced that Eleanor is the “pre-ordained Milady” who has been sent to save the Universe. They are joined by Trinkulus (a lizard being who was once involved with the evil Shak Graa).

The quintet heads to the Shriekwood Forest where they are captured by the Diva’s four Banshees; Canibelle, Oragala, Balbraka and Maligna. The Diva is the queen of the Banshees and the keeper of “The Cruelty” (a musical device that renders enemies powerless). The Starmites convince the Diva and her four minions to join them in battle against the evil Shak Graa. Meanwhile, Eleanor and Spacepunk fall in love just as Diva’s daughter (who is also a social misfit) falls in love with Spacepunk. Diva agrees to help only if Spacepunk marries Bizarbara who she has magically transformed to have Eleanor’s characteristics. Spacepunk agrees to marry Bizarbara then at the last minute cops out of the deal due to his love of Eleanor.

Trinkulus then reveals that he is actually Shak Graa and captures Spacepunk and Bizarbara (thinking that she is Eleanor) and grabs “The Cruelty”. Bizarbara ends up sacrificing herself and Spacepunk and Eleanor destroy Shak Graa. It is then revealed that Eleanor is actually Diva’s real daughter and Bizarbara (who ends up alive back on earth in Eleanor’s place) gets exactly what she wants in life (a home) and Eleanor and Spacepunk live happily ever after…the end.

No, I am not making this up. The first clue that this is a fantasy show is with the elaborate set that consists of comic book panels and a teenage girl’s bed piled high with comic books. There is a second story cat walk with a fireman’s pole on the left and a ladder on the right. Settings and props are smoothly transitioned in using sliding platforms.

So how does this show relate in any way to the summer theme that I began with? Think of “Starmites” as the s’mores of theater. It is a light and tasty treat that you can have a seasonal indulgement with, just don’t overdo it. The music is a light mixture of doo-wop that is expertly performed by the talented cast. Of special note is Lucy Anders as Eleanor Fairchild/Bizarbara, Colleen Longshaw* as Diva/Eleanor’s Mother and Daniel Lindenberger as Spacepunk.

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

The various cast members do their best to ham it up and not take the show to too serious a level. By keeping it light and fast moving they accomplish a miracle (that is to take a rather plain script and making it fun and enjoyable). The five piece orchestra also does a good job of filling the theater with sound.

Beefs and Flubs: Opening night seemed to come off without a hitch although I would have preferred a little more hamming it up by the various cast members. I would also like to mention the amazing (and frequent) costume changes for Eleanor/Bizarbara, Diva/Eleanor’s Mother, Trinkulus/Shak Graa and Shotzi/Oragla that were expertly done without a hitch. Well Played.

Prude Alert: This show is as squeaky clean as it gets. It reminded me of a fifties sit-com. Bring the entire family to this one.

Shooting From the Lip (In My Opinion): If you’re looking for a nice frothy summer time treat with a nice moral back story, this is a good show to share with the family. It’s not Hamlet, but it doesn’t try to be. Enjoy the show for what it is…Theatre Lite.

The Cast

Lucy Anders as Eleanor Fairchild/Bizarbara, Colleen Longshaw* as Diva/Eleanor’s Mother, Daniel Lindenberger as Spacepunk, Elliott Litherland as Herbie Harrison, Dylan Ratell as Dazzle Razzledorf, Christopher D. Tuck as Ack Ack Ackerman, Darian Lunsford as Shak Graa/Trinkulus, Jessica Nicole Benson as Caibelle, Grace Falasco as Shotzi/Oragala, Miriam Henkel-Moellmann as Balbraka and Mackenzie Duan as Maligna.

The Crew

Directed by Michael McIntosh*, Musical Direction by Jennifer Korecki, Choreography by Amy Fritsche, Scenic Design by Steve Pauna, Costume Design by Susan Williams, Lighting Design by Carly Shiner, Sound Design by Brian Chismar, Stage Management by Joshua Brown, Production Stage Managing by Derric Nolte*, Technical Directing by Ryan T. Patterson with Miriam Henke- Moellmann as the Dance Captain.

*Member of Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional Actors and Stage Managers in the United States.

The Orchestra

Jennifer Korecki on Keyboard #1, Melissa Fucci on Keyboard #2, Ryan McDermott on Guitar, Don T. Day on Bass and William Sallak on Percussion.

Performances are July 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19 at 8pm; July 6 and 13 at 2pm.

For tickets, call 330-672-3884, purchase online at www.porthousetheatre.com or in person at the Porthouse Box Office located in the Roe Green Center lobby of the Center for the Performing Arts at 1325 Theatre Drive, Kent, OH 44242. The box office is open Monday – Friday, 11am to 5 pm. The box office accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover, checks, and cash.

Note: Gold Center tickets refer to the best seats, senior pricing applies to individuals age 60+ and student pricing applies to those 18 and under or with valid college ID.

Special rates for groups of 20 or more are available, as are student rates. Single tickets, ranging from $28 - $37 for adults and seniors and $16 - $24 for students, are on sale now.