Aired on KSDS-FM on 9/30/16
RUN DATES: 9/10/16 – 10/23/16
VENUE: The Old Globe
Small town, Big Dreams.
The new musical, “October Sky,” having its West coast premiere at The Old Globe, tells of a high schooler in a West Virginia coal mining town, who is expected to spend his life like his father, underground. But he sets his sights on the sky
It’s a compelling story, but what makes it really sing is its basis in fact, inspired by the memoir, “Rocket Boys,” by Homer Hickam, and the 1999 Universal film, “October Sky,” which is an anagram of Rocket Boys.
In this knockout staging, presented in association with Universal Stage Productions, it’s 1957, and the residents of Coalwood watch Sputnik stream by. That thrill makes Homer want to build a rocket.
So he gathers a few fellow outsiders, forming the Big Creek Missile Agency, to perfect the design. Homer’s mother is warmly supportive, as are his beloved science teacher and an adoring schoolmate.
But his taciturn father just wants him to get down into the mine. Homer persists, the boys enter the science fair, and go all the way to the national level, a win that comes with a scholarship, Homer’s ticket out of town. This isn’t in the musical, but Hickam went on to have a highly successful career in NASA.
The terrific, touching tale, with book by Brian Hill and Aaron Thielen, and often poetic lyrics by composer Michael Mahler, is better than the acclaimed movie, delving deeper into the relationships.
The score, enjoyable if not memorable, has a country twang, with a touch of rock ‘n’ roll, played by an expert band. The singing is superb, with gorgeous, sometimes a capella harmonies. The cast is outstanding, and charismatic Kyle Selig makes Homer irresistible.
Rachel Rockwell’s direction and choreography are razor-sharp, though she tends to bring soloists downstage, to face the audience and sing. The production values and special effects are exceptional, with the mine elevator going down and the rockets magically going up.
This inspiring musical is about fathers and sons, looking to the stars, and following your dreams. Fittingly, Homer’s teacher quotes Robert Browning: “A man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?”
©2016 PAT LAUNER, San Diego Theater Reviews