Fans of campy old sci-fi films may feel they have hit something of a gold mine with the musical It Came From From Beyond.  Described as Grease meets War of the Worlds, the musical is set in the late 1950s and focuses on Harold (Clint Hromsco), a nerdy high student who is attempting to woo Becky (Kayleen Seidl) away from class bully Steve (Bryan S. Walton).  Harold is also obsessed with a comic book about Communist spies and an invasion of aliens from outer space. 

The high school and comic book plots merge and alternate,  with actors taking roles in both plot lines.  In the midst of all the action is a sly commentary on 1950s culture including McCarthyism, conformity and the military-industrial state.

The writer of It Came From Beyond is Cornell Christianson.  He has worked as a writer and producer at both 20th Century Fox and Paramount. In the program notes, he states that he writes  “musicals with a unique structure of two parallel and interconnecting stories that go back and forth between two worlds.” While I watched the show I was reminded of Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five which obviously also deals with aliens and fluctuates delightfully and unpredictably between different storylines.

The performances of the large cast are uniformly crisp and energetic.  (Interestingly, Hromsco directed the recently reviewed FRANKENSTEIN). Choreography by Mark Blowers and direction by Jim Blanchette contribute to the solidly professional and efficient look of the production.

The musical is greatly enhanced by a richly arranged recorded soundtrack which accompanies the singers. The theme song, “It Came From Beyond,” sounds like it could have been orchestrated by John Williams himself in all his Star Wars glory. The style of the musical numbers and their arrangements are an interesting pastiche,  varying from the epic sounds of sci-fi film scores to 40’s big band, 50’s rock and contemporary jazz. Music and lyrics are by Stephen M. Schwartz and Norman E. Thalheimer.

During the course of the show, clips are shown from such 1950s sci-fi movies with calm titles like Invaders From MarsHideous Sun Demon, and Brain From Planet Arous.  And of course, no celebration of this genre would be complete without clips from Plan 9 From Outer Space.

The running length of It Came From Beyond is an hour and forty-five minutes. While I was by no means restless towards the end of the show, I thought that the production might have benefited from an intermission as the few minutes before a break usually provides some sort of dramatic incident which focuses a play at mid-point.

As I watched It Came From Beyond I also thought it would be so easy to be dismissive of the campy sci-fi films referenced in the production.  But I have read that George Lucas received his inspiration for Star Wars at least in part from the old Flash Gordon serials, to which I think it can be said that the words campy and cheesy can safely be applied. And considering that Stars Wars has evolved to be at the center of the pop culture universe (perhaps it is the universe), its low budget cinematic antecedents are worthy of an homage or two.

It Came From Beyond is playing every Tuesday evening at 7 pm at the Theatre at St. Luke’s located at 308 West 46th St. in Manhattan.