Christina D'Orta and Alissa Hunnicutt inThe First (and Last) Musical on Mars(Photo © Peter Freed)
Christina D'Orta and Alissa Hunnicutt in
The First (and Last) Musical on Mars
(Photo © Peter Freed)
Bela Lugosi made his last film, Plan 9 From Outer Space, in 1959. That's to say, the on-his-uppers Lugosi worked two days on Ed Wood's opus, died, and was replaced for the rest of the shoot by a taller actor holding a cape in front of his face. When this movie about saving Planet Earth from destruction was released, it instantly became a cult classic -- one of the great film turkeys of all time. Some cinema mavens argue it's the absolute worst flick ever made.

Well, tuner fans, a musical comedy equivalent is now available. It's The First (and Last) Musical on Mars, subtitled "The New Interstellar Musical Comedy," and I urge anyone who hunts these calamities with the determination of truffle pigs searching for their reward to sniff around this show immediately. All others I warn away, since -- and I don't say the following lightly -- this could be the worst musical ever dropped neutron-bomb-like on Manhattan. We all would have been better off if it actually had been produced on Mars.

When a musical is this atrocious in every aspect, when it's the kind of offering for which reviewers deserve hazard pay, it sets itself up as an easy target. But I refuse to go there any more than is necessary. Suffice it to say that The First (and Last) Musical on Mars is the work of the Sci-Fi Channel's George Zarr. He wrote the book, music, and lyrics, all of which were unloaded awhile ago on "Seeing Eye Theatre" as the first Internet musical. Zarr's storyline, which I won't pretend to have followed closely, has to do with an American fellow named James (Paul Amodeo), who is sucked from his Chagrin Falls, Ohio home up to Mars in order to write a musical for a celebration attendant to the crowning of two interstellar princesses from Saturn -- or something like that. The sisters are called Poo-Koo (Alissa Hunnicutt) and Loo-Koo (Christina D'Orta), and they're both more than poco loco -- although Poo-Koo is not so crazy that she doesn't fall for likeable James, and he for her. The script's complication is that James, knowing nothing about musicals, has to turn one out in a week or watch the mad King Rah-Tah-Poo (John Barilla) fry Earth for reasons having to do with an interplanetary water shortage.

Those who remember that one of Broadway's biggest dud musicals was the Galt MacDermot-Christopher Gore-Judith Gore Via Galactica may think that this degree of ineptitude on a cosmic scale has been reached before; but they haven't watched Zarr unfurl his narrative, which also features a scheming distaff galaxy monarch in Queen Zaba-Thoo (Barbara Rosenblatt) and a musical-writing, four-headed Martian called Blot-Slot-Glot-Zot (played by Dave Bickle, Steven Wenslawski, Rosalie Rivera, Sandy York). Nor have skeptics who imagine that this show can't be as bad as all that heard the bi-Zarr tunes, which are not enhanced by musical director Barbara Anselmi's solo electric keyboard plunking.

Wretched as the score is, this isn't a show where you go out humming the scenery. You might go out scratching your head over it, though. Peter Feuchtwanger has stapled large swatches of lurid fabric on stage in a criss-cross pattern and hoped that this would serve -- along with a half-dozen or so swivel chairs -- as The Solar System General Council meeting room, Chagrin Falls, and all destinations between. (Chagrin sure does fall throughout the evening!) Tracy Calhoun's costumes, which include hastily-sewn alien ensembles and headpieces that look like chafing-dish covers, are undoubtedly the result of a severely restricted budget. (The actors are likely traipsing about in their own shoes; why else would so much scuffed black footwear be on display?)

But it's unfair to focus on the set and costume designs when this enterprise is an equal opportunity disgrace. Without embarrassing those involved by itemizing particulars of their inadequacy, I'll report that Zarr himself saw fit to direct his musical and Barbara Anselmi choreographed it. Lighting designer Edith Blackman and sound designer Jack Anthony have done what they could with what they'd been handed. (One of the characters squishes when he walks, and Anthony provides convincing squishes.) There's no need to deplore the work of the actors; among them, only Paul Amodeo and Christina D'Orta give the impression that they would be able to handle solid material.

The First (and Last) Musical on Mars contains any number of unintentionally funny lines that truly tempt a critic. "This is a nightmare!" and "I've never seen anything like this!" are two examples, but the most hilarious remark goes to James, who says: "Nobody knows less about putting on a musical than I do." He's wrong. Just about everyone concerned with this show knows far, far less.