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Comics As Inspiration:
Are We Having Fun Yet ?

The New York Times Arts & Leisure Section
April, 1989

by Richard B. Woodward

From The Page To The Stage

Broadway Cast Photo

The latest comic book characters on Broadway are in "Starmites," which opens Thursday at the Criterion Center. The musical follows the adventures of an adolescent girl as she becomes a super hero. With a rock score, cute characters and a direct appeal to teen-agers - the girl is an outcast whose mother doesn't understand her comic-book fantasies - the show also includes campy material designed to go over the heads of many children. The queen of Innerspace in "Starmites," a rather butch character named Diva, sings as a refrain: "It's hard to be a diva / It's hard to be divine," and adults will pick up the reference to the late drag queen of John Waters's films whom Diva is costumed to resemble.

"Starmites" steals good-naturedly from "Star Wars," "The Wizard Of Oz," Tolkien's "Lord Of The Rings," Wagner's "Ring" cycle and Mozart's "Magic Flute." It is not surprising that the composer and lyricist, Barry Keating, grew up reading comic books and watching Broadway musicals, or has he been reading Joseph Campbell, the late scholar of heroic myths whose books spurred George Lucas to write his successful space trilogy. "Comic books are the way we accept mythology today," says Mr. Keating. "We need this stuff."

Just as Jack Kirby's artwork for Marvel Comics in the 60's influenced the look of "Star Wars," so Mr. Keating cites the French science-fiction magazine Heavy Metal for inspiring some of the outrageously sexual costumes worn by the women in "Starmites." It requires a delicate hand to balance the innocence of musicals with the knowingness of camp. Mr. Keating says he wants the audience to "laugh at the jokes but take seriously the big ideas."

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