ORLANDO — At the beginning of the play “The Space Pirate Puppy Musical,” lead performer Luke Tudball sets some ground rules.
His colleague at Tasty Monster Productions, Heather Bagnall, has just promised the audience that they will go where no man has gone before … prompting Tudball to call a quick halt to the proceedings.
There will be no quick and easy pop culture references, he insists, especially to the Star Trek or Star Wars franchises in this production. “Space Pirate Puppy Musical,” he insists, will rise and fall on its own merits, and not on winks and nods to someone else’s creation.
From there, the four performers do indeed go their own way, starting with the play’s initial premise — that a bad “incident” on Earth has sent the humans scurrying underground or into space, leaving the planet to be run by dogs, who are more than happy to have an opportunity to do more than pant for attention and hunt for bones in the ground.
Since every good sci fi adventure needs villains, they come courtesy of the Space Pirates, who think Earth would make a nifty parking lot for their new nightclub on the moon, so they intent to pave over it.
To save the planet, the puppies try to devise a plan to stop the Pirates. But could they be so desperate for a solution that they might just be willing to join forces with their arch rivals — the Ninja Kittens?
If it all sounds a bit silly, well, let’s just say the zaniness is — out of this world! (Sorry, couldn’t resist). This is a family-friendly production featuring four performers who are clearly have a grand time performing in it. From the loud laughter in the audience, it was clear their enthusiasm was catching on.
Tasty Monster Productions, which was founded in 2011 by Bagnall and Tudball, notes that they combine a variety of elements in their productions — songs, cabaret-style performances, and small ensemble shows. “Space Pirate Puppy Musical” takes a similar approach, combining brand comedy, original songs, puppets, pop culture references, sci fi gags — and a childlike sense of wonder at the universe.
Written by Bagnall with music and lyrics by New York composer Steve Schalchlin and directed by Tudball, the 60 minute show has Tudball and Bagnall being joined by Orlando artists Wesley Slade and Britta Whittenberg.
Despite the sci fi references throughout the show, the play feels less like a spoof of the Star Trek episodes or movies than a live-action Saturday morning cartoon — particularly the current variety of rapid-paced, whacky dialogue cartoons being created today.
Tudball may be having the most fun of all four, playing the villainous lead pirate, the karate-kicking, “Heeeee-ya!” Ninja Kitten, and the Great Oracle, a wise old turtle who offers to help advise the puppies. But Slade steals more than a few moments as the puppy hiding out among the pirates, afraid his cover will be blown.
Again, if it all sounds silly — well, duhhh! Keep in mind the performers are having a blast being at their silliest, but the humor is gentle, innocent and ideal for families seeking out Fringe shows that the little ones will not only enjoy, but relate to.
“Space Pirate Puppy Musical” is being performed at the Yellow Venue at the Lowndes Shakespeare Center, and upcoming performances are being staged:
* Tonight at 5:30 p.m.
* Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
* Friday at 5:45 p.m.
* Saturday at 11:15 a.m.
Tickets are $11.
Michael Freeman is an Orlando journalist, playwright and author of the book “Bloody Rabbit”. Contact him at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..