A Jetsons-esque set and some well-curated pre-show music (“Catch a Falling Star,” “Fly Me to the Moon,” Monty Python’s “Galaxy Song”) set the tone: We’re going “out there.” And our travels, in the world premiere musical Come Get Maggie, from Rogue Machine Theatre, will have a soundtrack of intelligent and catchy songs spanning a variety of classic styles made fresh.
We meet title character Maggie (Melanie Neilan) as an astronomy-obsessed young girl in the 1930s aiming to get to the stars. Her parents (Melissa Jobe and Bruce Nozick) exert the gravitational pull of “normal” to guide her to marriage and children instead. They advise her that space is for boys and she should put away her telescope.
Young Maggie, not getting the support she needs on earth, sends off a large red balloon with a painted plea: please come get me. Then, in the ‘50s, having studied advanced physics but not hearing back from any aliens, she sings, “What is a normal woman? Is that what I should be?” Apparently, yes. Begrudgingly, she marries a schnook, Hugh Hinkle (Chase Ramsey).
Hugh has been advised by his Auntie Ruthie (Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield) not to marry a woman with a PhD. But he’s a widower with two children, so he needs a wife. Instant mother Maggie must give up the engineers and other space devotees working to form NASA. She’s stuck shopping and making Hugh his nightly post-work drink.
But things change for Maggie, in an interstellar kind of way. Her dream of abduction comes true and she meets Commander Varex (Dennis Renard). The story takes off and carries the audience with it, to infinity and beyond.
Wonderful, witty songs, by book and lyric writer Diane Frolov and composer/co-lyricist Susan Justin are sung by an incredibly talented cast. The songs enhance the unique storyline, adding to its soulful yearning for freedom. The message of being one’s authentic self comes through as clearly as the message on Maggie’s balloon. Sometimes, when we want something really badly and put in as much effort as we can, we make our own luck.
All cast members play multiple roles; this tale of the dawn of the Space Age goes deep, addressing the politics not only of the U.S. space program but of Commander Varex’s flying saucer. Neilan, a ballerina, with her graceful movements and beautiful singing voice, is the show’s heart. Renard has charisma and presence. The remaining cast is uniformly excellent, including Nicole Ledoux, Eddia Vona, Beth Egan, Sarah Hinrichsen, Alan Trinca and the larger-than-life Philip Casnoff.
Director Michael Pressman and choreographer Brooke Wendle cleverly maneuver the complex proceedings. Come Get Maggie has what it takes to justify a much larger stage with more advanced sets and full orchestrations. Although this production is fulfilling, it could go much bigger. Its sparse set and single keyboard accompanist (Music Director Michelle Do) lend it a bit of a workshop feel.
There’s timely, and then there’s timely. And it’s hard not to marvel at a show whose storyline features a high-flying balloon and an alien spaceship opening on a weekend that saw three shootdowns of “unidentified objects.” But Maggie didn’t just pop up this month. The show had its first reading at the Ebell of Los Angeles in 2011, launching a series there called PLAYdate produced by Cynthia Comsky.
Yes, musicals take a long time to develop. But in the case of Come Get Maggie, it’s worth it.
Come Get Maggie, from Rogue Machine, plays at 8:00pm Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays, 3:00pm Sundays through March 26 (no performance Feb. 13) at the Matrix Theatre, 7657 Melrose Ave. Tickets, available here, are $60 for general seating. Reserved seating, Saturdays and Sundays only, is $75. Pay-What-You-Can Fridays Feb. 17 ($10+), Feb. 24 ($15+) and Mar. 3 ($20+). Running time is about two hours, including an intermission.