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Blank Canvas Theatre’s ‘The Last Starfighter’ is sci-fi fun at its best

Sometimes you need a little “silly” in your life to get by. With all of the holiday themed theater shows flung around this season it is refreshing to find a goofy little musical to take in and relax with. I am talking of course about Blank Canvas Theatre’s “The Last Starfighter” now on stage through December 17th at The 78th Street Studios Complex.

The costuming is thrift shop chique and the props look like a high school shop class project but that is what is endearing about Blank Canvas productions. One does not venture to this black box theater to see state of the art gizmos and clothing. You come for the high energy talent that has over a dozen performers wildly cavorting in an area smaller than most living rooms, all without running into each other or flying out of control into the audience. This is what you will find with their latest musical offering of “The Last Starfighter.”

Alex Rogan (Jacob Lang) is a teenager who lives with his mother, Jane and younger brother Louis in the Starlite Starbrite Trailer Park in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. When not trying to keep the ancient mobile homes functioning Alex spends his time (and quarters) playing the Starfighter arcade game that was left on the premises some years ago.

Alex dreams of going to a good college in order to escape the drudgery of his life. He soon gets word that his application for a student loan has been turned down and his dreams are shattered.

Soon after, Alex beats the game’s highest level of play and a mysterious visitor, Centari (Jon Fancher) pays the lad a visit. Centari is the inventor of the arcade game which is actually used as an interstellar recruitment tool to find the best Starfighters in the universe. The game is in fact based on the real life conflict currently going on between the Rylan Star League and the evil Ko-Dan Empire that is led by Zur(Danny Simpson).

As a prize for beating the machine, Centari invites Alex for a ride in his fancy car which is in fact a spacecraft. Alex finds himself abducted and whisked away light years across the universe as a Beta robot doppelgangerandroid is left to impersonate the kidnapped youth on Earth. In spite of their best efforts and even after being shown the Gunstar that he would be be the gunner for, Alex refuses to be a Starfighter and is returned back to earth with a device that he can use to summon Centari if he changes his mind.

Alex discovers Beta (his double) and sends word to Centari to retrieve the android. Centari arrives as Alex and Beta are attacked by an alien assassin sent by Zur. Centari kills the assassin and explains to Alex that if he does not fight, more assassins will be sent to kill his family and residents of the trailer park. Alex agrees to return and fight.

In Patrick Ciamacco’s Director Notes he reveals that the production does not take itself too seriously. It is just “offers a night of crazy, silly, sci-fi fun.” This it does in spades. The alien masks, props and costumes border on the absurd which simply adds to the delight felt by the audience. One thing they do take seriously at Blank Canvas is the acting (it is exceptional with no flubbed lines), the orchestra (that combines space age keyboard sounds with guitars, bass, drums and cello for the 18 songs) and the choreography that is impossibly complex in a very small space. There are also some very complex Video Graphics used in the production which are top notch.

Jacob Lang as Alex and Beta is perfectly cast as the wayward youth searching for his place in the universe. Neda Spears as Otis and Grig is the voice of calm as the narrator. Jon Fancher as Centari is the delightful conman tasked with recruiting Alex. Danny Simpson as Blake and Zur is appropriately mean.

The rest of the cast consists of Mikaela Ray (Maggie and Alien Recruit), Sasha Wilson (Mrs. Rogan/ Alien Recruit), Molly McFadden (Granny and Alien Treasurer), Noah Haren (Louis and Alien Recruit), Kate Leigh Michalski (Elaine and Enduran), Aaron Patterson (Hugh, General Kril and Zandozan), Calvin Adkins (Jerry, Betan Double and G’Nur), Chrissy Margevicius (Jenny, Sergeant Taura and Lt. Parak), Erin Sheplavy (Darlene, Manzar and Zur’s Assistant) and Mattie Blick (Marty, Miss July and Alien Medic). As you can see, nearly all of the cast have double and triple roles.

The orchestra is made up of Bradley Wyner (Conductor and Keyboard 1), Oliver Deak (Keyboard 2), David Maxson (Guitar), Jason Stebleton (Bass), Pat Poland (Drums) and Hannah Benjamin (Cello).

The show is Directed by Patrick Ciamacco. Bradley Wyner is the Music Director. Katie Gibson is the Choreographer with Whitney Miller as Stage Manager and Pro Designer. Earth Costumes Design is by Luke Scattergood and Venchise Phillips designed the Alien Costumes. Lighting Design is by Bing Reising with Sound Design by Patrick Ciamacco. Pat Miller did the Graphic Design.

If you have been holly jollied to the point of distraction this season and want to see something fun and less Christmassy you need to check out this wild sci-fi production. It’s zany, crazy fun that will make you laugh and escape the world for a couple of hours. It is truly “Out Of This World.”

“The Last Starfighter” will be on stage at Blank Canvas Theatre located at 78th Street Studios, 1305 W. 78th Street, Suite 211, Cleveland, Ohio through December 17, 2022. For information and tickets go to call (440) 941-0458.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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