KHAN!!!: The Musical – A Parody Trek-tacular
Off-Broadway production at Players Theater in New York, NY
Music, lyrics, and book by Brent Black
Co-conceived and additional material by Alina Morgan
Directed by John Lampe
“Oh yeah, and the crew of the ‘Botany Bay,’
we rescued them, yes, but then got in their way
They tried to take over the Enterprise
But I cut their big guy right down to size
Oh, that planet we hastily stranded them on
and their leader… what was his name? Keith? Wait…
That was his name, Khan.
Whatever happened to that guy?”
– from the song “Young”
A story best served in song
The setup: Pursuing his study of what it means to be human, Lt. Commander Data forces himself to watch 1000 hours of 20th Century Earth musicals, and generates a new musical based on the events of the infamous Khan incident.
The result: a campy, uproarious, witty romp that is a parody not just of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but of Trek in general, and indeed all of Broadway’s best tropes.
KHAN!!! The Musical! A Parody TREK-tacular just opened for its debut performances at The Players Theatre in Greenwich Village, New York City, and will please the most hard-core Trek fan and the most devoted thespian alike. Written and composed by parodist Brent Black (of the YouTube channel Brentalfloss, the 2010 off-Broadway musical I’ll Be Damned, and numerous other podcasts and projects) and directed by John Lampe (director of productions of Aunt Jack and Richard III), KHAN!!! The Musical! had opening night audiences laughing constantly and grinning at each other like folks who knew they had seen something special.
The script is flat-out funny—all of the jokes landed, delivered at a machine-gun pace and rarely misfiring. The humor covered diverse topics like Shatner’s toupée, the historical (un)reliability of the Hamilton musical, and the inherent comedic gold of chickens. The nerdiest Trekker, the lifelong theater kid, and the newest arrival to the fandom will all laugh until their sides get sore. While there are deep-cut Trek references around every bend and some of the jokes will warp past Trek newbies, the writers nevertheless go out of their way to ensure the play remains accessible.
It’s hard to overemphasize how clever and efficient Brent Black’s lyrics are. Every song is streamlined, witty, and presented with the confidence of someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of both Trek and Broadway. Songs benefit from a variety of musical styles, with tap, jazz, group showstoppers, and heartfelt solos. Standouts include Admiral Kirk’s character theme, “Young,” the jazzy “Have I Still Got the Magic?,” and Khan’s flamboyantly vengeant “My Wrath.” Succinctly put, if there were a soundtrack album, we’d buy it. Hell yeah. See if you can catch the references to Les Misérables, Hamilton, The Phantom of the Opera, The Rocky Horror Picture Show, and more!
The actors are fantastic. This production features an eight-member ensemble, with many actors doubling and even tripling their roles. Shyaporn Theerakulstit is magnificent as a Shatnerian Kirk with just a dash of Elvis impersonation thrown in (paging James Cawley!). Shy is a lifelong Trek nerd, having played Sulu in the Star Trek: New Voyages Phase II projects. Julian Manjerico shines in the leading role as Lt. Commander Data, effortlessly commanding the stage as he embodies theater archetypes from the poised android, the dumb henchman, and the tragically pathetic dying waif (à la Tiny Tim, Gavroche, and Sweeney Todd’s Toby). Zachary Kropp gloriously chews the scenery, continuing the storied Broadway tradition of queer-coded villains in his performance as Khan complete with short shorts, majestic pecs, and a penchant for death drops.
Max Nusbaum plays Spock and Tyrell, bringing the right combination of logic and tap-dancing acumen to the role. He truly grounds the cast, forming the straight center around which the rest can whirlwind with abandon. Laura Whittenberger’s Saavik—half Vulcan, half ingenue—embodies the youthful energy of the quintessential Starfleet cadet as well as making fun of the vacuousness of so many ingenue roles. (Bones: “The no-win scenario isn’t really about passing or failing. The point is your character.” Saavik: “I have often wondered what the point of my character is.”) Lindsey M.E. Newton, who doubles as Bones and Scotty, juggles multiple accents and a metric ton of physical humor with outrageous results.
Just wait till you see how Scotty truly feels about those nacelles! Crystal Marie Stewart is amazing as Uhura and Carol Marcus, lighting up the stage whether “working the phones” or technobabbling the Genesis Project. Her hyperchannel rant about Kirk’s apparent seizure of Genesis is simultaneously filthy and family-friendly, and a highlight of the first act. Clayton Matthews plays BOTH Sulu and Chekov, nailing the smooth molasses tones of George Takei and Walter Koenig’s pseudo-Slavic Davy Jones impersonation. Stewart and Matthews’ lonely conversation on the bridge and their longing for a “moment to shine” was another highlight of the show.
Marooned for all of a limited run in the center of Greenwich Village
The Players Theatre is tiny, with tiny seats, but this lends the production an intimate and cozy atmosphere. Whether you’re in the front row or the back, there’s not a bad seat in the house. The sets are minimalistic and effective and the lighting design is top-notch. The budget costumes are note-perfect for the show. We were amazed at the numerous quick costume changes, and though there were a few technical hiccups—namely some microphone feedback at points in the show—the performers boldly went on, and our enjoyment was undimmed. These early show jitters will likely get worked out in short order. One standout set piece is the battle in the Mutara Nebula, which is envisioned onstage as a clever game of Battleship. We also loved the design of the Genesis torpedo.
While the first act of the show was marginally stronger than the second, the show definitely sticks the landing with an exuberant finale that runs the audience through every TOS-era Star Trek movie and even features an appearance by a pair of humpback whales of our acquaintance. And there are space chickens!
If you’re within driving distance of New York City and are a Trek fan, this show was lovingly and expertly created for you. Our audience was full of Trek-uniformed, Trek T-shirted people—it was fantastic seeing a great show with our extended Nerd Family, including my daughter Evelyn House, who co-wrote this review.
See it while you still have time
The show runs at the Players Theatre until June 4th, with evening performances Thursdays through Saturdays, and matinees on Saturday and Sunday. Get more information and buy tickets at www.khaniscoming.com
Complimentary tickets were provided to TrekMovie.com in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Ha love that Sega Genesis device.
Unlike LOWER DECKS, this production actually sounds funny — and in a way that honors the franchise without trying to shoehorn it into Star Trek canon.
I saw BACK TO THE FUTURE: THE MUSICAL in London in March (which admittedly reproduced the plot of the movie straight, rather than parodying it), and I generally enjoyed it. I remember thinking that this is how Star Trek should do a comedy.
The one caveat is that a musical is only as good as its music. With the partial exception of the song “This One’s For the Dreamers,” the BTTF numbers were not exactly WICKED or CATS quality. I hope this one’s better. Regrettably, I’ve no plans to be in New York City this month!
Lower Decks is funny.
It is, indeed.
Count me in as well guys! :)
There has yet to be a Lower Decks episode that isn’t funny. And it fits in just fine with canon; no shoehorning has been needed, and the people make it actually seem to care about the canon. That’s more than I can say for some of the other newer shows.
The IDW comic is hilarious too.
As you say, the author cares about canon and knows it well enough to make running meta jokes in their notes at the bottom of each page.
It just seems that fun is built in the design, laughing with the franchise about itself.
Yeah I think that’s why so many fans took to LDS even if they weren’t sold on it being an animated comedy because of how amazing it fits into canon. I’m personally very impressed with how much it fits into that universe and shows just how passionate McMahan is. If Discovery tried to do just a quarter of that in its first season, the reception may have been quite different IMO.
I’ll be honest, while I did love LDS just for being fun and light, it won me over so quickly because it felt like I was back in the 24th century again as if I was watching an extension of TNG/DS9/VOY. It really does feel exactly like those shows, just in comedic form. I think the show would be immensely more popular for some fans if it was translated into a live action version without the jokes.
Also totally agree. LDS is a great show not just because how well written it is but because how strongly it sticks to canon.
It also feels like the most Berman-esque show out of the new stuff. I think SNW is the second most Berman like show too and a reason I like it so much. But LDS feels like the whole package because it sticks way closer to canon than that show does.
I agree about SNW and feeling the most Berman like live action show as well. It really does feel like the other 90s shows, especially since its more of an ensemble base like those shows and has an A and B plot.
But I also agree LDS is definitely much better in terms of canon. I really like SNW but the canon issues still bugs me overall.
I prefer this to getting a Khan show. ;)
I’m not really looking forward to the Khan podcast either. I just dunno how interesting it will be to hear a show about augments stranded on a planet with no hope of rescue or leaving till TWoK
It sounds about as exciting as every episode of season 4 of Discovery…only without the crying. 🙄
There was only crying 2 times in Season 4 🙄
It could be interesting if they delve deeper into their backstory. I know most people here aren’t interested in that but i would be.
Sure, in an audio only format I could see that being interesting. But if this was a video production it would just be a bunch of ppl sitting around talking about old times or a bunch of anthology like flashbacks which would probably been too expensive.
This sounds great, I would love if they put it up on YouTube like Starkid Productions does. (On that subject, a Starkid Trek musical would be fun too.)
I say this but they did have two musicals that had Trek references.
Starship (parody of Starship Troopers) in 2011 that had references to Star Wars and Star Trek. (“Cause the need of the many bugs/they outweigh the few.” And more.)
And then The Guy Who Didn’t Like Musicals that I’ve mentioned here before. It’s loosely a parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers but also it’s… Imagine PIC S3 but the leading protagonist is Liam Shaw instead and literally nothing about his arc in the season changes. That’s TGWDLM.
The villains are a hive mind controlled by one being that make a few references to the Borg and is one in themselves. (“We will not be resisted.” is a line that everyone speaks at once towards the end of the show. Also these lyrics: “all your cells will renew and reinvent/it’s a death like process that you gotta see/your own body is your front row seat/to die.” “The hive needs to feed/happiness is guaranteed.”)
As for the leading protagonist, he starts out being kinda a donkey but changes as the show progresses and you start to learn why he is the way he is. (“We hated ourselves” is a line he says in the middle of the show. Towards the end he says “What I want doesn’t matter.” Then when he finally sings, we get the lyrics “I’ve never been happy/wouldn’t that be nice/I’ve become what I hated/or maybe I never did/it’s awful freeing now/to share the hate I felt/but what will I let in if I let it out.”) [Then later on you find out that he’s actually a series of clones that have all of the memories of their predecessors and one of them tries to defect and… I can talk about this forever.]
The show is on YouTube but if you just wanna check out the soundtrack (which I absolutely recommend) you can find it on Spotify and everywhere else you can stream music.
The woman playing Saavik needs to stick her thumb out when she does the Vulcan salute.
Well it certainly looks much funnier than Lower Decks. I am going to be in NYC soon, so I might check it out.
No you’re not. You’re just manufacturing an opportunity to twist the context so you can b*tch on Lower Decks. You know you are. Got you all figured out. Yup.
Well I don’t need to twist anything. Discovery sucks.
That’s funny because my tickets for my Padres @ Yankees game sure look like the say Friday, May 26 at 7:05 PM. Lol
And dude, I just this morning bought two tickets for this for Thursday night May 25th.
Nice try though! :-)
Sure OK. But you know you do take every opportunity to bash LDS. You got some passive-aggressive thing going. But I assume being from Cali you’re a Padres fan, so when they win 11-0 against the Yankees (who really suck) maybe that will alleviate that frustration you have…
LOL, yeah, I agree with all of that.
I’ve waited decades for the Padres to be good again, so I am enjoying the current team. Still waiting for a Chargers year where they don’t have 5 key injuries and choke. Lakers looking surprisingly good right now though. I live a bit north of LA now, but lived in SD in the 90’s.
The Yankees “really suck” but have a better record than the Padres, who are apparently really good?
Yeah, in my opinion the two teams are about equal. Both teams made their league championship series games and lost last year. Comparing records in early May isn’t that compelling for any claim on either team right now.
Considering it’s the Yankees, being in last place 8.5 games behind (as of yesterday), yes the Yankees suck relatively speaking… can’t remember when the Padres were in first place.
Being 8.5 games out but also above .500 isn’t sucking, it’s having bad luck to be in both a) a relatively strong division and b) having the leader of that division on a record pace (RaysUp)
Yes, I was joking…
If the seats are “tiny,” does that mean that larger people couldn’t fit in them? My husband is 6′ 4″.
I am 5’9” and 290 lbs. I fit into the seat, and wasn’t uncomfortable, but it was a close fit for me.
Thanks for the reply! It does sound as if it would be problematic for my husband.
I just bought two Aisle seats across from each other for my son and I given this was mentioned as an issue, and we are both over 6 foot tall.
Oooh, that’s a good idea! Let me talk to my husband…
Sorry…not a fan of Broadway musicals.
Why are you sorry? Who are you apologizing to?
Apology accepted… Captain Needa.
Good thing it’s an off-broadway musical then
Distance be dammed, I’m taking a 4-hour-each-way roundtrip on the train to come see this thing!
Maybe you’ll run into Rebecca de Mornay?
I was in NYC last week and also caught the first performance on Thursday night. It is an extremely fun show that will appeal to any level of Trek fan. All the performances are solid, but Data, Kirk and Khan are the clear highlights. The song lyrics are simply amazing, weaving in so many episode and movie references that it is difficult to catch them all.
The crowd was highly enthusiastic as expected (after all, this is not a show you would see by accident), although having the premiere on May 4th led to some confusing cross-IP cosplay by a number of attendees.
Production values are appropriate given its limited run and off-off-Broadway nature. So expect Starfleet uniforms that are somewhat mismatched and not at all screen-accurate, and a ripped mustard-colored sweater as a core component of Khan’s costume. I was repeatedly impressed by their budget-conscious creativeness.
If you are in NYC and enjoy Star Trek, this show is definitely worth checking out.
This is cool, but what about a full-on, full-length, tragic Italian Opera of Le Wrath di Khan?
A friend of mine went to see this last weekend (I had no idea until her Facebook post), and I was legitimately jealous! That said, she’s not much of a Trekkie and STILL loved it. So I can reinforce Denes’ statement that you don’t have to know everything about Trek to enjoy it. She also said she liked the musical references. Most of all, she was impressed by the number of Trek fans in the audience – which was nice to hear. One of the things I miss most about not getting new movies (as opposed to streaming) is that you don’t get to go to a crowded theatre on opening weekend and get to join in on the shared energy. Sounds like the off-Broadway performance was a lot like that environment.
who would go see this *other* than Trek fans?
Not a fan of this idea. Khan is a very dark character, and I don’t think this was thought through. Plus, the more you mess with a character, the more you dilute its impact and significance. This looks ridiculous.If it was a serious, non-musical play, maybe. They’ve already ruined Khan with Benedict Cumberbatch. Now Khan is gonna sing and dance? Nope.
You. You do know this is a parody right. Also I’ve seen it done with Darth Vader so why not with Khan. It in no way changes the way that the character is seen in canon.
It’s a silly off Broadway parody. It’s not meant to be taken that seriously…or seriously at all.
You DO understand what a parody is… right?
Given the current state of affairs with labor, and the suddenly dismal financial conditions of Paramount Global, off off Broadway Trek parodies may be the only Trek we have for a while.
“It’s hard to overemphasize how clever and efficient Brent Black’s lyrics are”
Well….then one must assume they dramatically improve over the example given at the start of the article
But – comedy and music are subjective so…this should come with a big ‘your mileage may vary’ warning.
Saw this show tonight and I will say that if you’re in NYC or nearby, you should go. It’s funny, silly, and very heartfelt. I don’t love musicals, so a lot of the musical references were lost on me, but that in and of itself didn’t take away from the show’s clever approach. All the seats in the house are pretty good, so even if you get the cheap seats, you’re in good shape.
I want to respond to myself a few hours later – I highly recommend seeing the show. It feels even more fun as time passes – and I think, given how much we all do love, and have lived with the story of Khan for so long… the musical lovingly shows why that story means so much to many of us.
Also, I neglected to mention that Spock tap dances!!!
Wow it’s great you got to see it and enjoyed it so much! I’m curious was it full and how long was the show?
On a scale of 1-10, what would you give it?
On a scale… I think it’s an 8+ but probably it’s a perfect 9 — It is exactly what it is trying to be.
On Friday, it was almost completely full. No full-on cosplayers like opening night (NY Away Team!), but plenty of cool, even homemade Trek-shirts and pins. Some people came just because it’s a musical. A lot of small groups of friends and/or family and they seemed to have fun too judging by laughter during the show and smile afterward.
The production is able to use ads so I even met someone who came to the show because they had been targeted. They seemed very happy, which is actually pretty cool.
Wow, sounds like a fun musical. It’s always great to have things like this outside of a convention. Glad you enjoyed it. I would probably go if I could’ve but it’s a big commitment flying from California for it and I don’t have that kind of money. ;)
For me it was just a subway ride :)
It was just over 2hrs with intermission. Enjoyed it, its very silly!
This review is 100% spot-on. We saw the show last week, and it was outstanding! Wrath of Khan tends to be untouchable among Trek fans, but there are a few misfires in the movie that were ripe for parody (Kirk and Spock’s “secret code”, hours = days, that could fool the “superior intellect”, for one…) And these guys just nailed it. Their take on Scotty’s nephew actually had me in tears from laughing so hard, and I can’t remember the last time that happened.
But the show certainly wasn’t busting on Trek; it’s a perfect parody from writers that clearly know and love Star Trek. Just about every joke landed, the song were top-notch, and the framing of the story around Data was just perfect. Performances were outstanding.
I can’t recommend this show enough. If you’re in the NYC area before June 4, you HAVE to see this.
My husband and I went to see the 2:00PM show on Saturday. We LOVED it. Lots of fun, good references, and a highly motivated cast. They’re talking about what’s next. Perhaps another run in the fall for Comic-Con. I suggested a venue near STLV…or perhaps in Ticonderoga. Go see this while you can! Well worth a drive into the city from Pennsylvania…