×

Barbarella

Putting "Barbarella" onstage with a score by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics sounded tantalizing enough, but maybe I was just having an acid flashback from the first time I saw the movie. The musical version of Roger Vadim's 1968 sci-fi camp-fest crash-landed at Vienna's Raimund Theater in a cheesy, awkward production by Kim Duddy.

With:
Barbarella - Nina Proll The Black Queen - Eva Maria Marold Sun, Master Locksmith - Drew Sarich Victor - Andreas Bieber Pygar - Mark Seibert Duran - Siegmar Tonk

Putting “Barbarella” onstage with a score by Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics sounded tantalizing enough, but maybe I was just having an acid flashback from the first time I saw the movie. The musical version of Roger Vadim’s 1968 sci-fi camp-fest, remembered best for Jane Fonda’s zero-gravity striptease, crash-landed at Vienna’s Raimund Theater in a cheesy, awkward production by Kim Duddy.

Actually, the show’s creators point out the musical is based not on the film, but on the 1962 comicbook by Jean-Claude Forest that inspired the movie. Whatever. It doesn’t play. Without benefit of hallucinogenics, the adventures of Barbarella in the 40th century are a 21st-century bore.

Just as the comic was fluffed out for the film, it has been re-fluffed for the stage, this time by adding a framework in which Barbarella, aping Lara Croft, is the star of a video game. The system crashes, her crew is stranded and she enters virtual reality to save them, providing an excuse for “Barbarella Superstar,” which bears a curious resemblance to another musical theater “Superstar.”

Popular on Variety

The potential for a fun fantasia along the lines of “The Rocky Horror Show” is destroyed by Rudi Klausnitzer’s hopelessly juvenile book and lyrics. Since there’s not enough plot to fill a two-hour show, we get a disjointed series of vignettes with some gratuitous soft-core porn tossed in. Played faux-naïve in an attempt at camp, dialogue lifted verbatim from the comic is merely uncomfortable and astoundingly unfunny.

Certainly Stewart can’t be faulted, but after writing 200 songs in collaboration with Annie Lennox, the only direction to go is down. Stewart tries so hard to make the show work you can feel him struggling to find a way around the inept words tossed in his path by Klausnitzer. There is no cohesion, no stylistic heart to hold the show together. The songs bounce from an unabashed Cole Porter ripoff and salutes to glam rock to ’80s-style power ballads.

Still, it is tough to leave the theater without a song in your head: the soul ballad “An Angel Has No Memory,” the Black Queen’s thrashing hard-rock “Welcome to My World,” or Victor the Robot’s show-stopping “I Want to Be Like Fred Astaire.”

Looking even yummier than Fonda as the eponymous heroine, Nina Proll is onstage for almost the entire show, and you have to admire her energy and dedication: She wants so badly for us to have a good time, but she hasn’t been given the resources to give it to us.

More successful is Eva Maria Marold as the audacious Black Queen. With benefit of the best music, the best lines and the best costumes, she stomps her thigh-high stiletto-heeled patent leather boots over anyone unfortunate enough to be onstage with her.

Male characters barely exist, but adorable Andreas Bieber scores big in Victor’s production number, tap-dancing up a staircase in a robot suit. In a dual role, Drew Sarich shows a solid voice as Sun, but his shrieking falsetto as the androgynous Master Locksmith is mighty unpleasant.

All the dry ice, lasers and video projections in the world can’t mask Mark Fisher’s bargain-basement sets, and Duddy’s unison choreography belongs in an aerobics class. Only the bodacious costumes by Patricia Field and David Dalrymple give the show some much-needed dazzle.

“Barbarella” aspires to cult-classic status, but errs too greatly on the side of caution: It wants to be over-the-top, but as much as it stretches, it can’t quite get there.

Barbarella

Raimund Theater; 1,170 seats; E95 ($116) top

Production: A Vereinigte Buhnen Wien presentation of a musical in two acts with music by Dave Stewart, book and lyrics by Rudi Klausnitzer. Directed and choreographed by Kim Duddy.

Creative: Sets, Mark Fisher; costumes, Patricia Field, David Dalrymple; lighting, Willie Williams; arrangements and orchestrations, Teese Gohl; musical director, Herbert Pichler; sound, Richard Ryan. Opened, reviewed March 11, 2004. Running time: 2 HOURS, 15 MIN.

Cast: Barbarella - Nina Proll The Black Queen - Eva Maria Marold Sun, Master Locksmith - Drew Sarich Victor - Andreas Bieber Pygar - Mark Seibert Duran - Siegmar Tonk

More Legit

  • The Prince of Egypt review

    'The Prince of Egypt': Theater Review

    In “The Prince of Egypt,” a swords-and-sandals epic minus the swords, no one speaks, they declaim; no one questions, they implore to the heavens. In a musical re-telling of the Exodus story that is bigger on plagues than on developed characterization, subtlety was always going to be in short supply. But did everything have to [...]

  • Katori Hall

    Listen: Katori Hall's 'Quiet Revolution'

    Playwright Katori Hall’s latest, “The Hot Wing King,” centers on a group of black gay men — a community so rarely depicted onstage in the theater that she can’t think of another example. Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below: Which means there’s real power just to see them represented. “Because there aren’t a ton of images [...]

  • Cirque Du Soleil Volta

    Volta: Cirque Du Soleil’s Latest Blends Themes of Self-Discovery with Street Sports

    Blending themes of loneliness, isolation and self-discovery with the magnetic culture of street sports, Cirque du Soleil’s latest iteration, “Volta,” is an eye-popping and psychically soothing spiritual journey experienced through a prism of jaw-dropping acrobatics and aerodynamics that leave one gasping for breath. The Montreal-based entertainment company has produced a steady string of awe-inspiring shows [...]

  • Cambodian Rock Band review

    'Cambodian Rock Band': Theater Review

    Is there anything less politically threatening than a rock band jamming to its own vibrant music? Tell that to the Khmer Rouge, which descended on Cambodia in 1975 and killed off some three million people, including many musicians. In Lauren Yee’s play “Cambodian Rock Band,” the doomed, fictional band Cyclo is represented by actor-musicians with [...]

  • Protesters demonstrate at the Broadway opening

    'West Side Story' Broadway Opening Night Sparks Protests

    Roughly 100 protestors gathered outside the Broadway premiere of “West Side Story” on Thursday night, carrying placards and chanting in unison to demand the removal of cast member Amar Ramasar. “Hey, hey, ho, ho, Ramasar has got to go,” they cried while holding signs that read “Keep predators off the stage,” “Sexual predators shouldn’t get [...]

  • West Side Story review

    'West Side Story': Theater Review

    Whittled down to one hour and forty-five minutes, “West Side Story” – with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and choreography by Jerome Robbins — has grown exceedingly dark and mislaid some of its moving parts in the new Broadway revival from edgy Belgian director Ivo Van Hove. (Can [...]

  • The Inheritance review

    'The Inheritance' Closing in March After Box Office Struggles

    “The Inheritance,” a sprawling and ambitious epic that grappled with the legacy of the AIDS epidemic, will close on March 15. The two-part play has struggled mightily at the box office despite receiving strong reviews. Last week, it grossed $345,984, or 52% of its capacity, a dispiriting number for a show that was reported to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content