The cast and musical crew of KZMU's original radio drama “Downtown Abbey” Season One included Michael Ford Dunton, Christy Williams Dunton, Bob Owen, Doni Kiffmeyer, Marlene Mody, Ken Slake, Keith G, Jenna Talbott, Peggy Hodgkins, Jeremy Lynch, Melissa Graciosa, Michaelene Pendleton, Brett Bentley, Zina Brown, Brian Coulter and Miriam Graham. Marty Durlin wrote and directed the drama; Serah Mead assisted with the production. Many of the same cast and crew members will be returning this weekend for the show's second season. [Photo courtesy of Marty Durlin]

Watching the news in 2017 can be like watching a re-re-make of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.”

And while current events might be devoid of humor, KZMU is bringing laughter to Star Hall this month with close encounters of the fun kind in its second installment of “Downtown Abbey.”

The first season of the show took place in February of last year during a live radio show where 11 performers, one band, a sound effects crew, playwright/director Marty Durlin and co-director Serah Mead were crammed into the KZMU studio.

This year, the program will be staged in front of a live audience at Star Hall on Saturday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m. Live shows offer the laughter and applause you can’t get in a studio.

Durlin said that she’s excited to bring this musical comedy to Moab.

“’Downtown Abbey’ is exciting because it is inspired by Moab,” Durlin said. “Everyone in it is from Moab; it is a homegrown product. The show is bursting with the cast’s creativity and gifts. It is constantly comic all the way through, even when the situation is dire.”

In the first season of the show, listeners were introduced to a Moab in a “nearly parallel universe,” Durlin said.

In this parallel version of Moab, Downtown Abbey, Edward Abbey’s fifth-cousin twice removed, is the opposite of the Abbey Moab readers will remember. He believes that nothing can be better for Moab than industrial tourism.

Moab is threatened when extraterrestrial Gleebnor, from the planet Gloob, lands in Moab determined to annihilate humans in order to protect animal lives endangered by their consumption-driven habits. Muriel, Downtown’s love interest, seduces Gleebnor in order to save Moab and the planet. This chapter of the saga concludes when the Gloobans give Earthlings one year to “clean up their acts,” said Michaelene Pendleton, who plays Jiwi, the alien who determines the fate of the Moabites.

Jiwi’s one-year grace period is merciful, considering that the “humans have killed so many creatures and are close to exterminating themselves,” Pendleton said.

In season two, Jessica Retka will be playing piano, and the musical numbers almost triple – from five songs to 14.

“The tunes stick in your head like earworms,” Pendleton said.

“Every character has a moment where you can relate to them, often through the music,” Durlin added.

Bob Owens will once again be the sound engineer, and Jeremy Spaulding and Marlene Mody will create sound effects.

There will also be musical effects created and donated to the production by Rob Schwimmer played on the Haken Continuum, an electronic keyboard that controls sound-producing algorithms. This otherworldly instrument provides the alien-style voices and melodies that are sprinkled throughout the show.

You do not need to have heard the first season in order to appreciate the second. At the beginning of the second season, Downtown and Muriel are enjoying “a peaceful neurotic life in the Earthdome of Gloob,” Durlin said.

Eventually, Downtown and Muriel head back to Moab, where there are enormous problems facing the community. The sewer plant is overflowing and U.S. Highway 191 has become a 12-lane superhighway. Downtown sees these setbacks as necessary to progress.

“He thinks things are going great,” Durlin said.

These crises of overdevelopment and lack of infrastructure serve as the major conflicts in the show. Not giving away the conclusion, Pendleton said that “even though the aliens have decided to destroy the planet, there is a happy ending.”

This satire, lasting a little over 90 minutes per episode, is sponsored by the Red Rock Bakery, Canyon Voyages and the Moab BARKery.

Durlin would also like to thank the actors for the “moving gifts of their time, talent and energy.”

Tickets will cost $10 for KZMU Founding Members and $15 for all others. All proceeds will be used toward KZMU operating costs.

KZMU’s second installment of “Downtown Abbey” returns Feb. 18-19

What: KZMU’s “Downtown Abbey” Season Two

When: Saturday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m., and a matinee on Sunday, Feb. 19, at 2 p.m.

Where: Star Hall, 159 E. Center St.

Cost: KZMU Founding Member tickets are $10 each; all others are $15. Tickets are available at Back of Beyond Books, 83 N. Main St., and KZMU, 1734 Rocky Road


‘Downtown Abbey’ is exciting because it is inspired by Moab. Everyone in it is from Moab; it is a homegrown product. The show is bursting with the cast’s creativity and gifts. It is constantly comic all the way through, even when the situation is dire!