Luke Milton’s Risky Lunar Love is a wild and wacky new musical, revived from a 2002 genesis in Perth. It tells a bizarre tale of competing science-fiction novelists, an alien sex goddess, a magical tiki, a sodomising pirate ghost, a disappearing pregnancy, a domineering cripple and a very foul-mouthed duo of a talking rabbit and bear. With a vivid aesthetic of day-glo ‘50s sci-fi and hula girls thrown into a blender with a touch of S&M, one thing is for sure – this show is a veritable feast of eye candy. The real question though, is whether it is really much of anything else…
Risky Lunar Love strongly disappointed me, to the point of outright annoyance. On paper, there is a lot to like about this show: it is a relatively large-scale endeavor with high production values and buckets of energy, a great cast, good choreography, terrific costumes and a wonderfully executed design concept. The general premise is appealing, the retro trash-culture visuals are delightful, the dialogue is peppered with some good one-liners, the oddball characters have promise and the zany, raunchy style of humour is the kind of thing that would usually appeal to me. And yet… the actual way it all comes together is profoundly ineffective. With so much going for it, this musical should work, but it really, truly does not. Unfortunately, Risky Lunar Love comes across as a kind of poor man’s Rocky Horror Show with updated levels of taboo and profanity but not one iota of the charm or impact.
Milton’s script is patchy in the extreme, with momentarily interesting characters being strung along on an almost incomprehensible storyline that lacks any of the basic narrative qualities required to hold one’s attention or generate a sense of empathy, dramatic tension or even consistent comedy. The largely incoherent plot makes major blunders in affording far too much time to a host of supporting characters while spending most of the first act ignoring the role which is ultimately supposed to be the major protagonist, thus requiring (and failing) to make the audience play catch-up in having any real emotional investment in the “hero.” Although most of the characters large and small have initially engaging quirks, virtually all of them fail to undergo any kind of interesting development and thus in most cases far overstay their welcome.
This is best exemplified by one of the major roles, that of the egotistical author Kikkoman, an outrageously overconfident Casanova who bursts onto the stage with considerable slimy charisma and force of personality. It’s the fact that he continues on in exactly same manner for so much of the musical’s duration that what began as an amusingly boorish rogue before long becomes genuinely boorish, and then really starts to grate by the onset of the second act. Even some of the most enjoyable roles like Bear and Rabbit are soon revealed to be one-trick ponies that ultimately become monotonous, despite the best efforts of the talented performers.
Speaking of monotony: for all its torrents of ribaldry, the show is surprisingly not “edgy” at all, with its incessant plethora of references to bondage, orgies and other forms of paraphilia somehow seem ultimately… dare I say adolescent? It all had a kind of sub-South Park air of notional shock value but without much real point behind it. And apart from the delightfully retro chorus of fembot-like alien clones, it wasn’t even mildly titillating.
Undoubtedly though, the cardinal sin of the whole affair is that it is totally devoid of memorable songs. Quite a few musicals, frankly, have survived fairly threadbare or naff stories (Sweet Charity comes to mind) due to the saving grace of having what any halfway-decent musical should include: some catchy songs. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that the musical numbers here are actively bad, they are certainly nothing more than merely competent. Well executed, mind you, but just like the rest of the show fundamentally lacking in substance or flair, even to the extent of light entertainment. These are unmemorable tunes coupled with repetitive, obvious lyrics that lack any particular wit or whimsy. The fact that upon leaving my seat at the show’s end not one single song remained stuck in my head by the time we reached the carpark pretty much says it all. In this regard it utterly pales in comparison to other recent “new” musicals like Keating! or Reefer Madness, where I left the theatre practically able to sing on cue over fifty percent of the ingenious songs I’d just heard for the first time.
It is such a shame that this show doesn’t work, as the aforementioned level of talent that has gone into Risky Lunar Love is very high, if not indeed somewhat overqualified. Director John Sheedy and producer Oliver Wenn have done a good job of producing a technically polished show, but they must nevertheless be criticised for having mounted a high-level production of such mediocre material as this. Energetic choreography by John O’Connell and vibrant costumes and set by Gypsy Taylor make the show a visual treat, and (apart from the egregiously deafening sound levels) the musical direction by Ross Johnston is slick. Amongst a uniformly talented cast particular praise goes to Shannon Dooley, Ivan Donato and Sheridan Harbridge for making the most of their ultimately irretrievable characters.
In the end though, there is no escaping the gravity well of the ominous black hole which is this decidedly uninspired material. It never rises to the level of those that have put so much effort into making it fly. For a show that states its sole intention is to be entertaining, it has fundamentally failed to manage even this. I wish that it were otherwise.
504 Producers presents
Risky Lunar Love
by Luke Milton
Venue: Carriageworks Bay 20 Theatre
Dates: 15 September- 4 October
Times: Tue - Fri & Sun 8pm, Sat 5pm & 9pm
Bookings: www.ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 723 038