Teen's Campy Astral Adventure. Musical has comic-book feel. THEATER: REVIEW
STARMITES Musical with music and lyrics by Barry Keating, book by Stuart Ross and Mr. Keating. Directed by Larry Carpenter. Choreography by Michele Assaf. ``I wish I was a superhero girl,'' yearns teen-age Eleanor (Liz Larsen) in the opening song of ``Starmites,'' the musical comedy fantasy that has launched the Criterion Center Stage Right. Eleanor dreams her young life away in the comic-book world of the title, the voluminous episodes of which she knows by heart. But Eleanor's Mother (Sharon McKnight) has had enough. Eleanor must shape up. The comic books must go.
Which provides the creators of ``Starmites'' with all the premise they need for a campy adventure tale, transporting Eleanor to inner space as easily as Dorothy was wafted to Oz or the Darling children to Neverland. With a cheerful nod to assorted classic and contemporary sources, authors Stuart Ross and Barry Keating and composer-lyricist Keating apply their own embellishments to space-age flights of fancy. ``Starmites'' moves airily from Eleanor's bedroom to such mock-scary locales as Shriekwood Forest, Castle Nemesis, and the Chamber of Psychosorcery, where the plot really thickens.
The denizens match the territory. They include handsome Spacepunk (Brian Lane Green), his gung-ho Starmites, and their seemingly faithful lizard Shak Graa (Ariel Grabber). The action initially pits the Starmites against the butch-like Diva (Ms. McKnight in bouffant blond hairdo and razzle-dazzle finery) and her leathered-and-feathered Banshees. Galactic confrontations feature the obligatory zappings, with powder flashes, lightnings, fake steam, and electronic sound effects. Challenged at every step, Eleanor ultimately finds the courage to become a real ``herogirl'' before returning safely from her magical musical adventure.
With director Larry Carpenter egging them on, an unstintingly energetic cast propels ``Starmites'' through its astral paces. Besides its rock variations, Barry Keating's score rises to the occasional romantic duet, sports a rousing gospelish ``Reach Right Down,'' and permits Ms. McKnight to raise the roof with ``Hard to Be a Diva.'' The fantasy is enthusiastically served by Lowell Detweiler (sets), Susan Hirschfeld (costumes), and Jason Kantrowitz (lighting). Michele Assaf devised the music video choreography. Musical director-keyboardist Henry Aronson and his four instrumentalists provide the accompaniments.
With its broad and suitably adolescent jokiness, ``Starmites'' would seem aimed at a teen-age audience - or perhaps just at the latent teen-ager in all of us. Maybe it should be accompanied by a YGR rating (Youth Guidance Recommended).