“Star Truck—the Musical” is set to take off into a spacious, harmonious, homonym-laden comic atmosphere (throw some hominy into the story, too), with performances at the Mariner Theater April 19, 20, 26 and 27.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. Friday and April 26 and 3 p.m. Saturday and April 27. The musical comedy is written and composed by Sally Oberstein and Michael McKinney, directed by Oberstein and produced by Homer Nutcracker Productions.
The basic storyline is this: The Star Truck intergalactic food wagon is chosen by the Evil Action Five to bring back chiefs from major planets for a Peace and Harmony Conference. The Star Truck’s daft radio operator hears about a “Peas and Hominy” Competition and launches a planet-to-planet search for the best “chefs.” All planets have a special spice that they believe makes their hummus the best, incomparable to that of the others.
This is an entirely locally-sourced show with a cast of 46 individuals, many of them youth performers. The live music includes a group of four. A large crew provides backstage assistance.
“We never turn anyone down who auditions,” Oberstein said. “We find a way to work them in.”
Including so many youth is a challenge Oberstein accommodates, even when many of the performers do not have parents in the play. The general Homer community energy is large and compassionate, too.
While Bobby Copeland McKinney worked on a set design for the show of a circus tent last Wednesday, she expressed great admiration for the youth talent and effort.
“The kids are amazing, and they’re welcomed in,” she said. “There’s lots of special talent included here and there will be a lot of surprises. All of the show is a display of joint effort.”
Still, the inclusion of so many youth does not necessarily imply a juvenile tone to the story line; there is plenty of mature humor and implications in many scenes.
On April 10, rehearsal in the Homer High School Green Room was crowded, the room was loud and the energy level was vibrant. Warm up began with a vocal preparation. Next, a full physical warm up included skipping, jumping and stretching. Oberstein provided notes to the cast.
“We’re going to run the whole show from the top,” she said. “Act big. I know this space isn’t the same as the stage. But, please feel free to show off.”
Each planet in the show could not be more different than the next, and the Star Truck crew must overcome colossal character challenges as they attempt to fulfill what they believe to be their mission. All spices hit the fan when contradictory planet representatives face off with each other and the Evil Action Five just when the evil-doers think they have them exactly where they want them.
Many characters are based on individuals in famous, established musicals or movies. The Evil Action Five are the “Bad Guys” and include Captain Hook, Doctor Frankenstein, Darth Vader, the Wicked Witch of the East and Cruella Deville. The planet identities are Monstropolus, Ringling (the circus planet), Windsor, Broadway, Universal, and Spitlandia, described as “They think they’re a planet but they’re not. They’re an asteroid but they think they’re the center of the universe.” Music is similar; tunes are borrowed, but words are revised to accommodate Star Truck matters.
Writing and directing a musical is not something new for Oberstein. Her earlier plays include “Old Songs and Duct Tape,” “The ’60s Show,” “Wizard of Odds,” “Circus Auditions,” and “Brouhaha” and many other productions.
“I’ve written a lot, about 25 plays,” Oberstein said. “Maybe more than that. I’ve never directed anyone else’s work except my own. The only exception to that are the drama slams that have taken place in Homer. I’ve directed two of those.”
Star Truck was composed in close collaboration with Michael McKinney, the seventh show Oberstein and McKinney have generated together. Oberstein described the general process.
“We work creative action together; script ideas are woven between us,” she said. “Michael is really the idea person. We problem solve and create at the same time.”
The initial script takes about six months to create, and it’s a process with substantial time and effort on a daily basis. But, it doesn’t end with Oberstein and McKinney. The final script adapts and transforms depending on impulses and identity of the performers as well.
“We write to accommodate the cast, and the whole process is as valuable as the performance,” Oberstein said. “If I could do anything for the rest of my life, it would just be to have rehearsals like this. I love sharing the experience with the crew. The development process is transformational for all of us.”
Again, Oberstein refers to a sense of community energy in the whole process.
“The bows at the end show everyone equally. There’s no single star of the show. We try to make everyone have an important role,” she said. “Also, I think of the audience as being part of the show, always. Their role is important, too. We’ll all get the chance to laugh together and they’ll get the opportunity to see how much talent is in this town.”
Several actors agreed.
Jessie Dabney, a performer, said, “What I like best about being in this show is the comradery;there is a group effort that brings all of us here.”
Brian Duffy has participated in Oberstein’s shows for the past five years, and what stands out to him the most “is all the people pulling together to make the whole thing work,” he said. “Sometimes there’s a bit of chaos, but we all pull together in the end.”
Cast member Kirby Calderwood said, “I love pretending with my friends. It’s like being a little kid, just playing. Mostly, I just love the people on the stage. It’s fun.”
When asked about upcoming intentions once Star Truck is over, Oberstein said her summer is occupied with plans for the Alaska World Arts Festival. This will be a two-week celebration of worldwide art to take place in Homer in September. More information on this can be found at https://www.alaskaworldarts.org.
Tickets for Star Truck are available at the Homer Bookstore.