Remmen brothers collaborate on musical spoof of ‘Star Trek’
Brothers Grant and Cole Remmen have long had it on their bucket list to write a musical.
“We had long talked about writing a musical together,” says Cole, who graduated from Detroit Lakes High School in 2012 (four years after his elder sibling). “We had recently seen the 2013 movie, ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness,’ and thought, ‘Why isn’t there a Star Trek musical?’ It’s so iconic in American pop culture and is the perfect vehicle to tell an interesting story through parody.”
From that initial discussion was born an idea that led to the creation of “Boldly Go!” – a musical parody based on the world of ‘Star Trek’ and its iconic characters.
The Remmens – sons of longtime Detroit Lakes residents Larry and Kelly Remmen – wrote both the script and songs for the production, which will make its worldwide premiere on stage at the California Institute of Technology (also known as Caltech) this coming weekend.
Their mutual love of musical theater was nurtured during their years at Detroit Lakes High School, and they have kept in touch with their artistic mentors in the years since, seeking their advice when it came to the creating the script and songs for ‘Boldly Go!’
“Grant first approached me a couple of years ago when he was home visiting his parents on a quick break from Caltech, where he is studying and doing research,” said DLHS vocal music director Kathryn Larson, who taught both the Remmens and directed them in several fall musicals during their years here. “I was so totally impressed by what Grant and Cole had done – I could hardly contain my excitement for them! I told Grant I wanted to read the script and I told him that we had to let Mark (Everson) and Carol (Nustad) know what they were up to.”
Larson, Everson and Nustad, who are all heavily involved in the annual fall musical productions at DLHS, were treated to an early preview of the Remmens’ creation during one of their visits back home in Detroit Lakes, and will be attending this weekend’s premiere at Caltech as well.
“We’re thrilled that they’re coming out to California, along with other friends and family, to see the show,” Grant said.
“We’re very excited to see the show,” Larson said.
The production will be staged in six different performances, starting this Friday through Sunday, Feb. 26-28, and again on March 3-5. For those who will be in southern California over the next couple of weeks and are interested in attending a performance, information on tickets and show times is available online at http://tacit.caltech.edu/shows/1516boldlygo. No other performances are being planned for the immediate future, though they don’t rule out the possibility of a Minnesota performance or two at some point.
“We’re just focusing on this initial production at this time,” Cole said.
As the production enters its final stages of preparation, both of its creators are excited to see their show performed in public for the first time.
“We’ve been fortunate to have been working with a choreography team and a great pit band, along with wonderful costumers, set-builders, make-up artists, and publicity team,” said Cole. “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.”
Cole, in fact, will have the added excitement of participating in the show on both sides of the curtain; he plays the role of Spock in this production as well as serving as its assistant director.
“I’ve been involved in the production side from the beginning, Skyping in to meetings and auditions,” he said. “The director of the show, Brian Brophy (director of Theater Arts at Caltech), asked me if I would be available to come to Pasadena to play Spock in the production and assistant direct.”
Cole is a senior at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, where he will soon complete his bachelor’s degree with a major in Theatre Arts and a minor in Studies in Cinema and Media Culture.
“I’m still a full-time University of Minnesota student and am taking (independent) research credits while I’m at Caltech,” he said; after completing his degree, he will begin looking at graduate schools.
Grant is in the process of working toward a Ph.D. in theoretical physics at Caltech (he graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities’ College of Science and Engineering in 2012 with a triple major in astrophysics, physics, and mathematics).
“I will graduate with my doctorate in a little over a year,” he says.
While working toward his doctorate, Grant has been busy collaborating with his brother and the Caltech production team on ‘Boldly Go!’; he is the show’s music director as well.
“Cole and I started writing ‘Boldly Go!’ in our limited ‘spare time’ in fall 2013 – it took about a year and a half to write,” Grant said.
“Both Cole and I worked collaboratively on the script, music and lyrics. We story-boarded the overall plot to figure out how to fit in songs to further the story and develop characters. We passed script drafts and music back and forth, Skyped a lot, and worked together over holidays. Cole definitely wrote more of the music and I wrote more of the lyrics, but we both worked significantly on all aspects.
“Our cast includes research scientists from Caltech, undergraduate and graduate students from Caltech, scientists and engineers from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, and even a technical director from Disney Animation. There are also hints that we may have a celebrity cameo or two in the show.”
In the foreword of the script for ‘Boldly Go!’ the Remmens wrote:
“‘Boldly Go!’ is a musical of both substance and comedy: a parody based upon the universe of Star Trek. The United Federation of Planets encounters a grave threat from an unknown source. The Starship Enterprise, with its intrepid crew – Captain Kirk, Spock, Doctor McCoy, Nurse Chapel, Uhura, Scotty, Chekov, and Sulu – is dispatched to investigate, going to the very edge of the Neutral Zone. Along the way, they encounter a mysterious alien scientist named Takya, for whom Spock finds himself emotionally susceptible. We also meet a nerdy and surprisingly human-like Klingon named Kharthak, who believes the sinister Klingon Empire could aspire to something greater. In the ensuing tale, the Enterprise faces its greatest challenge yet. Assumptions will be confronted, paradigms challenged, alliances tested, and new contacts made – whether for good or ill as yet to be seen. And it’s all set to a side-splitting tour de force of musical mayhem!
“While having fun with the sometimes farcical aspects of science fiction and parodying Star Trek, ‘Boldly Go!’ also satirizes the musical theater genre, which, as any musical aficionado knows, comes with its own set of peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. At its core, “Boldly Go!” is a story about being true to oneself and one’s convictions, about friendship and love, about discovery and wonder, about the triumph of the individual over adversity, and about the joy of sharing with each other this vast and mysterious Universe.”
The script also includes 19 original songs, written in a wide variety of genres, “from power ballad, to patter song, to gospel, to tango and more,” Grant said.
Some of the song selections include “Klingons Are Misunderstood” and “Take Us Out.”
“It’s a show written both for people who like Star Trek and for people who like musical theater,” Cole said. “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. The show was workshopped at the University of Minnesota in February 2015 and received an enthusiastic response at a public reading. We also had a public read-through and sing-through at Caltech in May 2015, which was very exciting.”
“We had seen some Star Trek previously, but I’d say we became fans more in the process of writing the show,” said Grant. “We didn’t write the show specifically for Caltech, but it’s really a perfect place at which to premiere the show, given the campus culture and history of connections to Star Trek dating back to the 1960s.”
While broadly based on the classic, 1960s Star Trek television series, the script also includes some nods to the more modern film and television interpretations, as well as references to other movies, television series, and pop culture in general, Grant said.
“We are very excited for next week’s premiere. Everything is coming together nicely. We have a great cast and crew, so we’re looking forward to a fun, fantastic show.”
Follow Detroit Lakes Newspapers reporter Vicki Gerdes on Twitter at @VickiLGerdes.