If you haven't revisited your childhood fantasy for a while, Lily & Kosmo Live is just the thing to bring out your inner child - and alter-"hero" - for a fresh ride. Who wouldn't want to save the world and be the man of the hour? But this epic space fantasy of a spirited six-year-old girl is not slight or simple as, well, child's play. It has an avid imagination befitting the children's minds it purportedly springs from, but its craftsmanship is decidedly sophisticated and its humor smart.
Lily is obsessed with Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers, famous space heroes with shiny helmets. Her mother is worried about her and her father is fed up. The space cadets have got to go to make room for tea party sets! In protest, little Lily cuts her hair boy-short. That night she hears a crash and comes downstairs - and finds a six-year-old real-deal cadet by the name of Kosmo Kidd. Welcome to Space Land!
Mistaking Lily as a boy, Kosmo recruits her for his astronaut league against the evil Meanman of Morgo, his henchmen the Morgonites, and his right hand woman, Dr. Meniscus. You see, in Space Land kids are major trouble that must be hunted down and "dejuvenated" for a "tot-free tomorrow." The kid astronauts are fighting back with their latest mission: "Nab the Mene Man's mostash frum undr his vairy nos."
Soon the Morgonites track down the duo and their distinguished comrades: Rocket, a stickler for rules; Gernsback, whose brain has been replaced with an "adding machine"; Pando, a Spanish boy chef supremely proud of his own mustache.
"The air is rife with kiddishness," The Morgonites sniff and growl. But Lily is nothing if not enterprising. A hilarious wild ride of a quest ensues and even her baby brother, the two-year-old always-drooling Otto, gets the spectacular center stage. You will just have to see the show to get the crazy fun.
Lily has to fight to prove herself first, however: The league is "Lads ownly. No wimmin alowd." The triumph of the league is ultimately not only that of the kid power, but also of her girl power.
The way the story is told is part of the intricacy of the production. Set up as a live radio play from the 50's, the show starts with actors warming up in front of the microphones. Not only is this a play within a play, a nifty cartoon illustration overhead adds yet another dimension to the beguiling cosmos. The voice actors come in and out of the plot, and a grandfather-like narrator also chimes in from the side. Before long the audience gets summoned. It's a fantasy and playwright and director Jonathan Ashley plays with the stage with the giddiness of a child and ingenuity of a game programmer.
The cast plays multiple roles with distinctness and great flourish. Lily by Danielle Beckmann is adorable and a total spacial force to be reckoned with. Jordan Kenneth Kamp is that boy who rises to the occasion and wins your heart. Dave Lankford's witty Gernsback gives all of our favorite space "bots" a run for their money. Paco Lozano's "chef" Pando shines with goofy charm. Thea McCartan is compulsively watchable as Dr. Meniscus. Nick Steven's baby Otto proves that you don't need a word to steal the scene. Not to be forgotten is of course "The Man" by a delicious Howard Pinhasik; what's a space opera without a super villain?
This production is complexity in study. To put a kid-friendly show into a nostalgic old radio suit sometimes makes it look a bit out of place, but a tight script manages to hold the theatrical tricks together. Various accents are utilized to high comedic effect. None of the actors deliberately "play kids", but you easily buy into their youthful energy and hutzpa.
Most impressive is sound designer and Foley artist Andy Evan Cohen, who is the one-man sound effect wizard making his magic right on the stage. With all that is going on - frantically sometimes, his beat propels the show as surely as Lily's indomitable spirit.
So a girl dreams big, fights the evil dictator of the universe, and gets her shiny helmet. You may find yourself snickering next time you see a mustache. And seriously, just how can you not love a show that comes up with the equation, "a cat + a coat hanger = a sloth"?