Who says you can't be working on a Ph.D. and writing a Star Trek musical at the same time? Well, that's probably not anyone we might know, but it is indeed true for brothers Cole and Grant Remmen, who are bringing their musical "Boldly Go" to the California Institute of Technology stage this coming weekend.
With nearly 20 original songs, including "Klingons are Misunderstood" and "Take Us Out," the Remmen brothers have planned a brief run of what they describe as a parody that satirizes both Star Trek and science-fiction in general, as well as musical theater.
"It's a show written both for people who like Star Trek, and for people who like musical theater," Cole Remmen recently told Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes. "We worked on the show over any breaks we had, Skyped a lot, and sent drafts back and forth. It was a long but fun process."
Cole's older brother Grant is the one who is working on his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Caltech in Pasadena, California. He graduated with a bachelor's in astrophysics, physics and mathematics from the University of Minnesota. That school is where Cole is a senior, working on his theatre arts degree. The two decided soon after watching "Star Trek: Into Darkness" that it was time to do a musical on Trek and have it ready in time for the franchise's 50th anniversary this year.
"We had long talked about writing a musical together," Cole Remmen said, adding that after seeing "Into Darkness," the two wondered why there wasn't a musical already. "It's so iconic in American pop culture, and is the perfect vehicle to tell an interesting story through parody."
The cast for the production includes research scientists from Caltech, as well as other students from the school. It even includes some scientists and engineers from NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, as well as Cole Remmen himself, who will fly out from Minnesota to appear in the production as Spock.
"We've been fortunate to have been working with a choreography team and a great pit band, along with wonderful costumers, set builders, makeup artists and publicity team," Cole Remmen said. "It really is a huge effort, by now involving 60-plus people. We're very excited about everyone in the cast and crew that is helping make 'Boldly Go' a fantastic production."
The musical is directed by Brian Brophy, who is the theatre arts director at Caltech. Brophy, by the way, should be familiar to Star Trek fans with a keen eye. He played Cmdr. Bruce Maddox in the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode "Measure of a Man," in which Brent Spiner's Data went on trial to determine if he was property or a sentient being.
The musical is based on the USS Enterprise with Kirk, Spock, McCoy and others, as they are ordered to investigate something at the edge of the Neutral Zone. Along the way they encounter an alien named Takya, who somehow is able to bring out some emotions in Spock.
The crew also meets a Klingon they never expected to meet — a nerdy one, named Kharthak, who has his own ideas on what the Klingon Empire could be.
"At its core, 'Boldly Go' is a story about being true to oneself and one's convictions, about friendship and love, and discovery and wonder," according to the production's foreword. It's "about triumph of the individual over adversity, and about the joy of sharing with each other this vast and mysterious universe."
The production will go to stage Feb. 26-28 and March 3-5 at Caltech. It also stars Kelvin Bates as Kirk, Allen Corcorran as McCoy, Holly Bender as Takya and Peter Lommen as Kharthak.
Ticket prices range from $5 for Caltech students to $18 general admission, and can be found here.
Get a look at last year's stage reading of the musical here.