"Star Child," at The Valentine Theatre
by Eric D. Snider
Published on April 19, 1999
"Saturday's Warrior" fans and detractors, unite! The sequel, "Star Child," is really bad.
"Star Child," like its LDS-themed predecessor, starts out in the pre-existence. The overly enthusiastic Chuck Baker (played by the overly enthusiastic James Royce Edwards) and his non-descript best friend Larry Clayton (Robert Lemon) are about to be born in the same hospital. At the last minute, though, Larry's plans are changed, and he's born to a non-LDS family in Russia. Chuck promises he'll find Larry and teach him the gospel.
Well, unfortunately, Chuck himself winds up either not a member, or an inactive one (we're not really told). He's therefore not likely to find Larry, nor does he have much chance of marrying the strait-laced Marie (Kim Butterworth), to whom he was betrothed in the pre-existence. In fact, she wants nothing to do with Chuck, and is quite vexed that he has followed/stalked her to BYU.
Elders Kestler (Brian Neil McFadyen) and Greene (Jeff Stevens), fresh off their missions (portrayed in "Saturday's Warrior"), show up at BYU to find wives. The shallow Kestler's main criterion is beauty, and he finds it in Marie, who rebuffs him. Kestler and Chuck meet and discover they both have girl troubles, and Kestler realizes it's the same girl. So he hatches a plan: He'll convert Chuck, send him on a mission, and steal Marie. Chuck converts, goes to Russia, finds Larry, comes home. There are marriages, death, lots of singing, yada yada yada.
What made "Saturday's Warrior" work was that it had some catchy tunes, some memorable songs, and some genuinely sweet moments. It was also a novelty, playing with the idea of the things we've forgotten from the pre-existence.
"Star Child" has none of that. The writer/lyricist is the same (Doug Stewart), but Gaye Beeson's music is forgettable and unimaginative. As for originality, it's strictly been there, done that, with very few innovations in this sequel.
The plot is lame, contrived, sexist and insulting. Nerd girl Mitzi (Christina Holling) feels worthless because she's never had a date -- but when Greene falls in love with her, she becomes beautiful (and doesn't have to wear glasses anymore, either, for some reason). The message? You're not a worthwhile woman unless you're married and pretty.
It's not even the LDS ideal that a woman is not complete, eternally speaking, without a husband; that notion would have been fine. But this is just your basic old-fashioned "women aren't valid until they're married" thing. Watching the BYU girls throw themselves at the maddeningly self-centered and slap-worthy Kestler is disgusting; seeing him go the entire show without ever really learning his lesson, or getting what he deserves -- he does get slapped, but not enough -- is even worse.
Which brings us to the characters. Our two main "heroes," Chuck and Kestler, are two-dimensional and -- what's worse -- annoying as hell. Both are played smugly and over-the-top, though in different ways: Edwards' Chuck is embarrassing, while McFadyen's Kestler is irritating. They ham it up big-time, getting nary a laugh between them.
Kestler's insane plot to send Chuck on a mission as a means of stealing his girlfriend is actually a bright spot in the show. It's so outrageous, so jaw-droppingly misguided, that you get a taste of how fun and wacky the show could have been. But it's quickly ruined by a song-and-dance missionary discussion that involves Kestler and Greene giving Chuck the hard sell, all the while dancing around disrespectfully with pictures of the Savior.
Stewart clearly wanted to convey a nice religious message with this show. But the script is weak and riddled with problems (we won't even address the doctrinal errors), the songs are mostly bad, and the whole thing reeks of someone trying to re-hash his initial success without doing anything new. Add to that some unlikable stock characters and some sub-par acting, and you've got yourself a mess.
Copyright © Eric D. Snider.
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