March 20, 2015 by T. Gregory Argall
Once upon a time, soon after the turn of the century, just for fun I wrote a few fake movie reviews. One of them was for “Battlestar Galactica: The Musical.”
This was long before the SciFi/SyFy/Pick-A-Name channel had their hugely successful re-imagining of the show, a time when the most significant thing of Katee Sackhoff’s IMDB listing was that one episode of “Chicken Soup For The Soul” she did, where she played a teenage girl who was afraid to tell a boy she liked him. (No, really.)
Considering how much the Galactica mythos has grown in the intervening years, this little piece seems oddly anachronistic now, but I still kind of like it.
Sing Me A Song Of Galactica
Battlestar Galactica has finally come full circle. First came the film in 1978. It had limited theatrical release, so limited, in fact, that it is classified as a “made-for-tv” movie. Then came two seasons of the television series, followed by two lackluster small screen films in 1980. Fast forward to 1992, to the Broadway premiere of “Battlestar Galactica: The Musical”. Now, completing the cycle, BG:TM has become, as they say, a major motion picture.
The original stage production closed on Broadway after one week. Its record on the London stage presents an even sadder picture. At the conclusion of Galactica’s first (and only) performance in London’s Harrowsmith Theatre, only one person remained in the audience; film director Alan Parker.
Parker says that while others may have seen a confusing array of slap-dash plot-lines, half-developed characters, overly complicated irrelevant songs and some really great dancing, he saw something more. He saw the future. Not simply a future of spaceships and flashy velour leisure suits. He saw the future of the Big Budget Hollywood Musical. He quickly began making notes, calling studios, arranging extraneous production activities and generally pissing people off by talking about nothing else for the next nine years.
(In fact, many of the rumoured on-set problems that arose during the filming of “Evita” in 1994 were a result of Parker talking everyone’s ears off about his plans for Starbuck and Apollo’s big dance number.)
Eventually all of his other projects were completed and out of the way and he could focus entirely on bringing “Battlestar Galactica: The Musical” to the big screen. And focus, he did. The final package is one sure to appeal, not only to the die hard fans of the TV series, but also to fans of musical cinema (current statistics estimate that there are about twelve of them).
The songs, written by the unlikely duo of Ric Ocasek and Todd Rundgren, with additional lyrics by Joni Mitchell, are a wonderful collection of songs that, while part of the larger whole that is the film, are also competent stand-alone pieces. From the toe-tapping rhythm of “We’ve Got Cylons Out The Ying Yang And Lasers Up The Wazoo” to the dirge-like mantra, “Have You Seen Our Lost Colony?” the true craftsmanship behind the music is constantly apparent.
Parker has assembled an interesting ensemble cast for this re-interpretation of Glen A. Larson’s original vision. Commander Adama is brilliantly portrayed by Judd Hirsch, who has surprising vocal range. Nathan Lane’s multiple talents are beautifully showcased as Lieutenant Starbuck.. Perhaps the most interesting casting choice was made for the role of Captain Apollo. In the original film and TV series, Apollo was played by Richard Hatch, who has also appeared as… well, nothing significant or worth mentioning. However, in the new film, Apollo is played by Richard Hatch, the fat, naked, gay guy from the first season of “Survivor.” Same character; different Richard Hatch. Somewhere, the gods of irony are snickering quietly to themselves. Surprisingly, Hatch (the new one) does a fairly creditable job on the role and is actually quite a dancer.
Speaking of which, the dancing is by far the main attraction is this film. An obvious decision was made to follow the influences of Bob Fosse in the choreography. The thinking is quite clear: the target demographic for most films featuring large space-fleets is young men, 13-18 years old. Most of them would see this film, simply on principle. However, include the Fosse factor and you can guarantee that no teenaged boy will see this movie fewer than five time. Big spaceships with sexy, sweat-glistened women doing pelvic thrusts and spread-eagle two-steps. It’s a combination that just can’t lose.
Nathan Lane’s got a hell of a kick, too.
Overall, this is a well packaged film, whose time has finally come. You might as well go see it. Everyone else will and you don’t want to be left out, do you?
Try to be nice to each other.