KHAN!!!: The Musical – A Parody Trek-tacular
Off-Broadway production at Players Theater in New York, NY
Music, lyrics, and book by Brent Black
Co-conceived and additional material by Alina Morgan
Directed by John Lampe
“Oh yeah, and the crew of the ‘Botany Bay,’
we rescued them, yes, but then got in their way
They tried to take over the Enterprise
But I cut their big guy right down to size
Oh, that planet we hastily stranded them on
and their leader… what was his name? Keith? Wait…
That was his name, Khan.
Whatever happened to that guy?”
– from the song “Young”
A story best served in song
The setup: Pursuing his study of what it means to be human, Lt. Commander Data forces himself to watch 1000 hours of 20th Century Earth musicals, and generates a new musical based on the events of the infamous Khan incident.
The result: a campy, uproarious, witty romp that is a parody not just of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but of Trek in general, and indeed all of Broadway’s best tropes.
KHAN!!! The Musical! A Parody TREK-tacular just opened for its debut performances at The Players Theatre in Greenwich Village, New York City, and will please the most hard-core Trek fan and the most devoted thespian alike. Written and composed by parodist Brent Black (of the YouTube channel Brentalfloss, the 2010 off-Broadway musical I’ll Be Damned, and numerous other podcasts and projects) and directed by John Lampe (director of productions of Aunt Jack and Richard III), KHAN!!! The Musical! had opening night audiences laughing constantly and grinning at each other like folks who knew they had seen something special.
The script is flat-out funny—all of the jokes landed, delivered at a machine-gun pace and rarely misfiring. The humor covered diverse topics like Shatner’s toupée, the historical (un)reliability of the Hamilton musical, and the inherent comedic gold of chickens. The nerdiest Trekker, the lifelong theater kid, and the newest arrival to the fandom will all laugh until their sides get sore. While there are deep-cut Trek references around every bend and some of the jokes will warp past Trek newbies, the writers nevertheless go out of their way to ensure the play remains accessible.
It’s hard to overemphasize how clever and efficient Brent Black’s lyrics are. Every song is streamlined, witty, and presented with the confidence of someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of both Trek and Broadway. Songs benefit from a variety of musical styles, with tap, jazz, group showstoppers, and heartfelt solos. Standouts include Admiral Kirk’s character theme, “Young,” the jazzy “Have I Still Got the Magic?,” and Khan’s flamboyantly vengeant “My Wrath.” Succinctly put, if there were a soundtrack album, we’d buy it. Hell yeah. See if you can catch the references to Les Misérables, Hamilton, The Phantom of the Opera, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and more!
The actors are fantastic. This production features an eight-member ensemble, with many actors doubling and even tripling their roles. Shyaporn Theerakulstit is magnificent as a Shatnerian Kirk with just a dash of Elvis impersonation thrown in (paging James Cawley!). Shy is a lifelong Trek nerd, having played Sulu in the Star Trek: New Voyages Phase II projects. Julian Manjerico shines in the leading role as Lt. Commander Data, effortlessly commanding the stage as he embodies theater archetypes from the poised android, the dumb henchman, and the tragically pathetic dying waif (à la Tiny Tim, Gavroche, and Sweeney Todd’s Toby). Zachary Kropp gloriously chews the scenery, continuing the storied Broadway tradition of queer-coded villains in his performance as Khan complete with short shorts, majestic pecs, and a penchant for death drops.
Max Nusbaum plays Spock and Tyrell, bringing the right combination of logic and tap-dancing acumen to the role. He truly grounds the cast, forming the straight center around which the rest can whirlwind with abandon. Laura Whittenberger’s Saavik—half Vulcan, half ingenue—embodies the youthful energy of the quintessential Starfleet cadet as well as making fun of the vacuousness of so many ingenue roles. (Bones: “The no-win scenario isn’t really about passing or failing. The point is your character.” Saavik: “I have often wondered what the point of my character is.”) Lindsey M.E. Newton, who doubles as Bones and Scotty, juggles multiple accents and a metric ton of physical humor with outrageous results.
Just wait till you see how Scotty truly feels about those nacelles! Crystal Marie Stewart is amazing as Uhura and Carol Marcus, lighting up the stage whether “working the phones” or technobabbling the Genesis Project. Her hyperchannel rant about Kirk’s apparent seizure of Genesis is simultaneously filthy and family-friendly, and a highlight of the first act. Clayton Matthews plays BOTH Sulu and Chekov, nailing the smooth molasses tones of George Takei and Walter Koenig’s pseudo-Slavic Davy Jones impersonation. Stewart and Matthews’ lonely conversation on the bridge and their longing for a “moment to shine” was another highlight of the show.
Marooned for all of a limited run in the center of Greenwich Village
The Players Theatre is tiny, with tiny seats, but this lends the production an intimate and cozy atmosphere. Whether you’re in the front row or the back, there’s not a bad seat in the house. The sets are minimalistic and effective and the lighting design is top-notch. The budget costumes are note-perfect for the show. We were amazed at the numerous quick costume changes, and though there were a few technical hiccups—namely some microphone feedback at points in the show—the performers boldly went on, and our enjoyment was undimmed. These early show jitters will likely get worked out in short order. One standout set piece is the battle in the Mutara Nebula, which is envisioned onstage as a clever game of Battleship. We also loved the design of the Genesis torpedo.
While the first act of the show was marginally stronger than the second, the show definitely sticks the landing with an exuberant finale that runs the audience through every TOS-era Star Trek movie and even features an appearance by a pair of humpback whales of our acquaintance. And there are space chickens!
If you’re within driving distance of New York City and are a Trek fan, this show was lovingly and expertly created for you. Our audience was full of Trek-uniformed, Trek T-shirted people—it was fantastic seeing a great show with our extended Nerd Family, including my daughter Evelyn House, who co-wrote this review.
See it while you still have time
The show runs at the Players Theatre until June 4th, with evening performances Thursdays through Saturdays, and matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Get more information and buy tickets at www.khaniscoming.com
Complimentary tickets were provided to TrekMovie.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.