Wild Women of Planet Wongo satirizes and celebrates both the space-race kitsch and the flower-power counterculture of the 1960s. An immersive musical crammed with good-natured energy and nonstop campy humor, this sci-fi fantasy by Ben Budick, Steve Mackes, and Dave Ogrin is staged in a “white box” gallery lined with huge video screens showing amusing cartoon scenery. Zooming in and out through the standing audience, the players enact a Barbarella-meets-John-Waters kind of story about a pair of glorified space delivery boys who crash-land on a planet inhabited only by sexpot women.
The women are governed by the tyrannical Queen Rita (a charismatic, slick-sounding Alyssa McGuigan), whose “By the Book” number is the show’s best song, and a rulebook one of whose commands they have all fatefully misinterpreted. Meanwhile, Captain Ric Rogers (Miki Hellerbach in fine voice) is motivated, at first, by loyalty to his company and his important snack-delivery mission.
Ric’s portly second-in-command, Louie LaFever (a funny Howie Schaal), the id to his captain’s ego – superego being absent from this story – is randy and desperate for some shore leave, as their only companion has been Hermie, their ship’s snide and pouty computer system, represented by an animated eye and voiced with a smart nod to Paul Lynde. When Hermie meets the Wongo women’s own digital deity, still more twisted romance is afoot.
“Afoot” is the right word because the show is part dance-party, with inventive, perky choreography by Juson Williams and opportunity (though thankfully little pressure) for audience participation. Directed with flavorful energy and precise pacing by David Rigano, the wacky story is just the framework for gracefully goofy performances by a solid cast that features some fine voices, and for clever, fun songs that tap into the spirit of the ’60s. One song name-drops ’60s counterculture music, from Dylan to the now-obscure Paul Simon tune “Red Rubber Ball.” I seemed to be the only one in the audience who got that last reference, but it felt perfect for an interplanetary adventure. Leave it in, kids!
The show is so much fun I wish there were a little more of it. A couple more songs would fill out its comedic ambitions. Given that the audience has to stand, having two intermissions makes sense – and encourages drink and merchandise sales at the bar in front – but it leaves only about an hour’s worth of actual show. And I was a bit disappointed that the big dance-party rave-up at the end was a reprise of a song that, however fun, was one we’d just heard.