March 16, 2016

DETROIT, MI Review

Star Trek fans boldly took a time-travel trip though five decades of musical history in Detroit when Star Trek: The Ultimate Voyage beamed into the Fox Theatre as part of the 50th Anniversary Concert Tour.

The show, created by CineConcerts, CBS Consumer Products, and Trek parent company Paramount Pictures, The Ultimate Voyage is currently on a 100-city tour of concert venues across North America.

Die-hard sci-fi faithful were treated to an evening of wonder while exploring far-off galaxies in the final frontier, as members of the Czech National Symphony Orchestra performed a stellar array of symphonic selections from the beloved fantasy series while scenes from the iconic TV and film franchise were broadcast on a vast, 40-foot screen overhead.

It is all part of a new trend in the live-to-projection cinematic experience, which melds a soaring live orchestral score with captivating stories that have left an indelible mark on pop culture and thrilled a global audience for generations.

Concert-goers arrived and lined up at the Fox on a comfortable, spring-like evening and wandered inside where the familiar rumble of starship engines and the submarine-style ping of the original series’ sensors greeted them from the stage, adorned with a detailed mock-up of Starfleet’s flagship, the Enterprise, bathed in soft blue neon running lights.

The orchestra was strategically seated throughout the scenery, as if parked on top of the saucer section of the ship for the performance, while conductor Nicholas Buc led his musical officers through their paces while perched on the exterior bubble of the bridge.

The percussion section was nestled at the back of the stage, wedged into a striking replica of the lavish command center of Star Trek: The Next Generation, while two giant spires stage right and left rose up to the heavens like Roman columns, designed to emulate the Enterprise’s famous warp-engine nacelles.

Above the musicians, recently employed by director Quentin Tarantino for his Oscar-nominated Western epic The Hateful Eight, the video screen pulsed and glowed while images of deep space’s nethermost regions glittered against a black star curtain.

Beginning with the sweeping, triumphant main title overture from 1979’s Star Trek: The Motion Picture—written by award-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith—the orchestra briskly began the evening’s two-hour voyage, leaving Starfleet’s dry dock behind and heading for the twinkle of faraway worlds.

Following a visit to Yosemite National Park, where the Enterprise’s most revered leader Captain James T. Kirk symbolized man’s insatiable desire to reach new heights with an ascent up the perilous cliffs of the El Capitan mountain on the overhead monitor, the action quickly shifted to the heat of “Klingon Battle” with Starfleet’s most feared nemesis-turned-ally, who approached in menacing star cruisers as the stage lighting shifted to red-alert status.

The show’s first act was peppered with plenty of other action, most notably an extended sequence that borrowed heavily from the original series episode “Amok Time,” where Kirk and first officer Mr. Spock wage a war to the death on the steamy sands of Spock’s home planet of Vulcan.

Also worthy of praise was a cliffhanger finale leading into the intermission, which highlighted the gloomy, doom-laden urgency of Next Generation Captain Jean-Luc Picard’s desperate fight with biomechanical nightmare alien species the Borg, who abducted the captain and turned him against his comrades in one of the series’ best two-part episodes, “The Best of Both Worlds.” Audience members were transported to the Borg ship along with the captain as the scenery dimmed to a sickly green hue.

The orchestra took great delight in performing some of the franchise’s most whimsical musical footnotes during a sequence entitled “Lifeforms,” where Next Generation’s lovable android Lieutenant Commander Data chased his inner human while a montage of Trek’s most seminal aliens—from the omnipotent Q of The Next Generation to the Andorians and Romulans of the original series—paraded across the digital projection.

But the first act’s most powerful testament to great storytelling came from “The Captains,” a suite set to Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s main title theme by composer Dennis McCarthy, in which Trek’s fearless skippers were saluted with warm, delicate strings and brassy horns.

The second act steered away from the action and focused more on the unbreakable bond felt by characters spanning the TV show’s amazing five-series run, with a healthy dose of the franchise’s 12-and-counting collection of feature films sprinkled in.

Whether reliving the thrills of The Undiscovered Country, Into Darkness, First Contact, and confessed Buc favorite The Wrath of Khan, or pausing to reflect on the resolve of captains Janeway and Archer in Voyager and Enterprise, the show caused the audience to erupt in applause, cheers, chuckles, and even a few tears throughout, especially during a segment dedicated to Spock actor Leonard Nimoy, who passed away last year.

But the concert’s highest peak came from its quietest movement, one highlighted by a solo penny flute performance by Martina Kustarova, taken from fan-favorite The Next Generation episode “The Inner Light,” where past and future lives meet and music serves as the universal tie that binds us all in our pursuit to better understand our world and seek out new potential civilizations someday within our grasp.

It was a moment not lost on those who attended the concert, some dressed in original series red and gold shirts; others in more formal Starfleet tunics and dress uniforms, complete with elaborate alien makeups.

“I thought it all tied the show together really well,” said 33-year-old Marie Enga of Detroit.

“It was great, “ said Frank Palazzolo, 48, also of Detroit. “From all the different series and all the different times, I thought they blended really well together.”

It’s that love for the series and the devotion of fans that has kept the show alive for so long, and what allows it to continue into the future as more productions like The Ultimate Voyage take flight.

“The thing about this tour is the people and we get to see all these really cool theaters,” said tour manager Nickie Pollacek. “It’s a labor of love.”