Now playing a limited world-premiere engagement that opened on May the 4th (be with you) at Off-Broadway’s Players Theatre, Peekskill Productions’ Khan!!! The Musical – a wacky sci-fi parody of the iconic Star Trek media franchise, written by Brent Black (book, music, and lyrics), co-conceived by Alina Morgan (additional materials), and directed by John Lampe – offers a “Trek-tacular” send-up of the popular 1982 film The Wrath of Khan. Set in the year 2366, and programmed in a holographic format for a simulated test audience (us!) by Data the Android after watching 1000 hours of classic Broadway shows, the eponymous genetically engineered nemesis of a now older Captain Kirk (experiencing a “coming of middle age” crisis) escapes his fifteen-year exile and vows revenge on his enemy and the entire crew of the starship Enterprise.
It’s all a lot of fast-paced zany fun for Trekkies and theater-lovers alike (and double the fun if you’re both), with absolutely hilarious portrayals of the familiar characters, their recognizable speech patterns, accents, and demeanors, by a terrific cast of eight that sings, dances, and delivers the laugh-out-loud humor and clever wordplay of their multiple roles with full-out energy, commitment, and cosmic talent. The show includes everything from witty references to such famous stage hits as Hamilton, The Rocky Horror Show, A Chorus Line, Oliver, A Christmas Carol, Uncle Vanya, Rent, Saturday Night Fever, The Boy from Oz, and more, to ‘60s-style dance (it is 2366, after all), Elvis-type moves, tap, and jazz hands (lively choreography by Angel Reed), to Kirk’s unknown love child, mutant space chickens, and Vulcan hand salutes that signal the blessing “Live long and prosper.”
The sidesplitting Julian Manjerico takes the lead as Data, who serves as the narrator of the play-within-a-play, introducing each scene with his spot-on AI robotic manner and nonplussed spoilers (“Will our hero save the day? Yes.”), then activating show star mode to embody the theatricality of the musical he created and cast himself in as the central figure and others, into which he transitions quickly and flawlessly. Max Nusbaum as Spock also laughably maintains his character’s impassive deadpan manner, even when choosing to sacrifice himself for the greater good; Shyaporn Theerakulstit (who appeared as Lieutenant. Hikaru Sulu on the long-running fan web series, Star Trek: New Voyages Phase II) as Kirk does a pitch-perfect impersonation of the vocal rhythms and inflections of William Shatner, originator of the role on TV; and Zachary Kropp brings his blockbuster voice, perfect comic timing, and flamboyant stylings to Khan’s diabolical determination and high camp leg kicks.
They are given excellent support by Clayton Matthews as Sulu and Chekov (nailing the Russian accent), Lindsey M.E. Newton as Bones and Scotty, Crystal Marie Stewart as Uhura and Carol Marcus, and Laura Whittenberger as Saavik (who quizzically questions, what is the point of her character?). Each and every one is hysterically entertaining in their characterizations and impressive in their amusing segments of song and dance, accompanied by track musicians Danimal Cannon, Wazzmo, Simon Passmore, Cal Rustad, and musical director Nicholas Kaminski, with musical arrangements by the show’s multi-talented creator Brent Black, and pre-recorded voiceovers by Jodi Land, Bonnie Gordon, and Martyn Owen.
Costumes by Jolene Richardson capture the distinctive looks, ears, and eyebrows of the Earthlings, Vulcans, virtual beings, and mutants. A simple scenic design by Ivey Jenkins-Long fluidly shifts to the different spaceships with movable control desks and chairs before a background grid, enhanced by evocative colorful lighting by Melissa Shawcross.
Khan!!! has all the best ingredients of a cult classic, so we can only hope that this limited engagement (which had an enthusiastic packed house at the performance I attended) will be extended well into the future it so masterfully lampoons!
Running Time: Approximately two hours and 15 minutes, including an intermission.
Khan!!! The Musical plays through Sunday, June 4, 2023, at the Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street, NYC. For tickets (priced at $25-65, plus fees), call (212) 475-1449, or go online. Masks are not required.