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THEATER REVIEW

Star Wars Far Out

MTG Presents Musical Edition of Cult Classic

By Erik Blankinship and Sagara Wickramasekara

Star Wars: Musical Edition

Sala de Puerto Rico

Jan. 30, Feb. 1, 7, 8, 8 p.m.; Feb 2, 2 p.m.

Written by Rogue Shindler and Jeff Suess

Music Arranged by Stephen Peters

Musical Theatre Guild

Opening night for Star Wars -- new, old, or special edition -- has become a festival of homemade costumes and faux light saber battles for the other camping costumed fans. Activities to pass the hours include trivia contests, trading tips on costume designs, and filking (which is folk singing a la fandom -- think homemade Dr. Demento and you are cleared for hyperspace).

On opening night of the Musical Edition it was quiet compared to the intergalactic hubbub surrounding premieres of every other Star Wars “Edition.” Then we were ushered into the theater and beheld an elevated, to-scale Millenium Falcon cockpit. The opening revue number, “Trilogy Tonight” to the music of Sondheim, spilled costumed characters dancing across stage, replete with Jawas, Imperials, Gronk droids, and Greedo.

Then it made sense. The fans have incorporated and taken their street theater onto the stage.

Enter the Star Wars: Musical Edition, in which the fans are the show and other fans cue to see them on stage! Add sold-out shows into this mix and this coming weekend there might be tents and sleeping bags around the Student Center as fans clamor to get the remaining tickets. (The Musical Theatre Guild has reserved fifty or so tickets for each show available that day, so make sure to get there early).

Given the creators’ love for the material, it is not surprising that there is great attention to story details. For example, scenes with Luke cut from the film but rumored in fan magazines and Web sites are included in the Musical Edition. At the beginning of the musical, I thought we might actually follow Luke to Toshi Station to get those power converters. This is the fun of seeing a presentation by fans who care as much about Star Wars as you do: there is a heartfelt care and camp in their editorial decisions about what they want to see in Star Wars and what’s funny. Take for example Luke finding the holographic message from Princess Leia and asking, “are there are any more women in there?” They even let Han shoot first! This is the special edition you were waiting for.

Faithful to its title, the show sings its way from Tatooine to Yavin Four with an impressive number of musical parodies. For the most part, the songs are not the laugh-a-line lyrical works of Weird Al Yankovic, with the exception of “ Multipurpose Service Droid,” sung by C-3P0 (Nori Pritchard ’06) and the random denizens of a Jawa sandcrawler. Rather, the authors cleverly fit the screenplay’s lines into verses from existing musicals, turning tunes like Andrew Lloyd-Webber’s “Music of the Night” into the Jedi theme “Music of the Knight” to having a ghostly Bail Organa reassure the Princess in “Don’t Cry for Me Princess Leia.”

If you know the tunes and you know the lines, there is an enjoyment in hearing how the two often fit snugly together. If you don’t know your musicals by heart, then there are times when you don’t get the whole joke but it’s still pretty funny.

As is appropriate for the genre, the audience praised the sets and the special effects. Each new scene change brought “oohs” and “aahs” and giggles from the audience. When the aforementioned Milennium Falcon opens up to reveal its interior, some people began to applaud, and rightly so -- it is impressive! The low-budget nature of the effect makes things ever funnier: floating droids are held aloft by fishing rods, hyperspace is a light show, and the opening title crawl is revealed with an overhead projector. R2D2 is a wheeled toy constantly moved around by C-3PO using kicks, shoves, and shaking to simulate R2D2’s mind of its own and brought a great deal of applause and laughter from the crowd.

The cast really loves the material, and they are very enthusiastic about playing it up to their sell-out crowds. Amy Schonsheck ’03 as Leia is able to belt out her lyrics with super Star Wars force, and has mastered the nuances of Leia’s gestures and gait. She performs her holographic message repeatedly as if she were the recording itself. Chewbacca (Derek Herrera ’92) was a crowd favorite, hamming it up for the audience by groaning whenever Han (James Kirtley) breaks into song.

The only problem with this show is that with masked characters singing; often lyrics were muffled and difficult to hear or understand. In fact, Nori, who plays C-3P0, passed out on stage during a dress rehearsal (since then a larger opening was cut into her C-3P0 mask). But the muffled voices are a small technical issue and don’t diminish from the overall enthusiasm and fun of the show.

The MTG has done a great job selecting and producing this musical and letting us laugh along with our friends from that galaxy far, far away.