The 1950s kicked off what was known as “the Space Age,” an era in which real Cold War fears were manifested in popular culture’s monsters and space aliens. Think of films like Plan 9 from Outer Space, Godzilla, and Gamera: The Giant Monster (Gamera was the flying space turtle that helped save the world from Godzilla - but you knew that...).
Wisconsin composer and lyricist James Valcq drew heavily on those tropes, as well as the mix of musical styles found in popular television shows, to create his musical pastiche currently on stage at the Skylight Music Theatre, Zombies from the Beyond.
In this show, first staged in 1986, the fictional Milwaukee Space Center is terrorized by a flying saucer that's toting a crew of buxom space aliens bent on kidnapping men to repopulate their home planet.
The show opened last week at Skylight Music Theatre and Valcq says that one of the reasons he set the show in the '50s was that it was a time when so-called high and low culture were mixed together.
"They were still putting opera singers on Ed Sullivan," he says. And director Pam Kriger quickly jumped in to say the musical mix in the show has always appealed to her. "I grew up in the '50s," she explains. "So I actually think I liked the show more that you did!"
Zombies From The Beyond is at the Skylight through February 18.