Khan!!! The Musical! bills itself as a “parody Trek-tacular” — a comedic reworking of the 1982 cult classic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that nods to other moments in the decades-long Trek franchise. And the show, with a book and score by Brent Black (with Alina Morgan sharing co-conceiving credit), plays like a collegiate romp for sci-fi nerds, loaded with exaggerated performances and inside jokes (the red-shirted chorus people are the most vulnerable, of course).
Standouts in the eight-person cast include Shyaporn Theerakulstit, who gives a hilariously halting version of William Shatner’s bizarro line readings as Captain Kirk, and the hirsute-chested Zachary Kropp, who’s suitably campy as the Bond villain-like Khan that Ricardo Montalban memorably brought to life on film. The vocal standout is Laura Whittenberger as the half-Vulcan Saavik, who even nods to her character’s basic expendability. (“I have often wondered what the point of my character is,” she tells Sulu at one point.)
Because every modern parody needs a meta aspect, here we have the entire production framed by Julian Manjerico’s Data — the android from the Next Generation series — who’s been inspired to retell the Enterprise-Khan story as a stage musical in yet another attempt to explore aspects of humanity that elude him. Manjerico also ditches the robotic delivery to jump into the action as a variety of supporting characters.
Black’s story is mostly faithful to the original film, which leads to a very long evening — and some dry stretches between insertions of humor. Alas, the songs are a mostly forgettable series of pastiches of pop and Broadway styles elevated only by the occasional jokey lyric (including a diss of the historical liberties taken by Lin-Manuel Miranda in Hamilton).
The show, which opened this month at the Players Theater in Greenwich Village, has a college-revue look and feel that could be seen as a callback to the pre-CGI look of the original ’60s TV show — from the rudimentary sets (by Ivey Jenkins Long) and costumes (by Jolene Richardson) and the pared-down music (Nicholas Kaminski sits at a keyboard, backed by pre-recorded track musicians).
I’m not sure how big the overlap is the Venn diagram of Trekkies and musical theater fans, but Khan!!! seems to have found the sweet spot. Whether it can live long, or prosper, remains an open question.