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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

MITs Star Wars – The Trilogy: The Musical takes the audience down the dark side

Published: November 18, 2005
Section: Arts, Etc.

You would think MIT had it made when they secured the rights to perform the world premiere of Star Wars – The Trilogy: The Musical.

MIT, a Massachusetts educational staple, had the cutting edge technology to make the outworldly sets and all the myriad breeds of aliens;

it had the resources to buy all the cutting-edge theatre technology, such as spotlights, speakers, and microphones;

it even had a professional director and one of the musicals creators, Rogue Schindler, behind the helm of its wildly ambitious theatrical endeavors. Indeed, photographs of a life-sized Jabba the Hutt puppet and X-Wing Starfighter vests gave Star Wars fanatics and theatre-goers alike the hopes that MIT had the brains and resources to pull off this once-in-a-lifetime event.

I guess this shows that money cant buy everythingespecially talent.

MITs world premiere of the musical was more than just a Phantom Menace, as the technical miscues and acting snafus that marred the show were all too real. The show, which ran an exhausting three hours, was broken up just as the original trilogy was, with A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, and its finale Return of the Jedi.

While A New Hope exploded upon an optimistic audience with good cheer and genuine showmanship, the good will the actors had engendered was quickly eroded by downright atrocious technical miscues–Darth Vader (Jamez Kirtley 94), who would be the obvious and perhaps most satisfying victim of a musical parody, became suddenly incomprehensible as his microphone muffled all trace of his voice, leaving the Dark Lord of the Sith sounding more like Charlie Browns teacher than the rumbly James Earl Jones. C3-PO (Nori Pritchard 06), while amusing in her parody of Modern Major General (I am the very model/of a Multipurpose Service Droid), had repeated and distracting wardrobe malfunctions, as her shoulder pad kept breaking loose and flapping around visibly. Throughout, the spotlight operator was consistently late on its cues, leading to their searching desperatelyand obviouslyin the dark for a character to focus on. While in Episode V (The Empire Strikes Back, but A New Hope if I ever saw one) the errors decreased somewhat, they returned with a vengence in Episode VI – Return of the Jedi. As Vader and Luke had their final lightsaber duel, a member of the run crew stood in plain sight on the balcony overhead, waiting numbly for his cue to throw some debris. In short, the overall sloppy nature of the technical execution was not only deplorable, it was downright embarrassing.

Meanwhile, tech work aside, the acting in Episode IV was like the attack on the Death Star: Hit or miss.

While Han Solo (Timothy Abrahamsen 06) sped through his lines at light-speed, the show was stolen by the affable goofiness of Luke Skywalker (Matt Ciborowski 08) and the raw singing talent of Princess Leia (Wellesley first-year Allison Volk). Ben Kenobi, played by David Jedlinksy 89, however, failed to generate any sympathy during his surprisingly large time on stageindeed, by the time he was killed by Darth Vader, I was happy to see him go. C3-PO, while played very closely to George Lucas original film, unfortunately did not translate well onto stage, as both Pritchards movements and face were trapped within a rigid droid exterior. Perhaps the most disappointing actors, however, were the villains of the piece: Emperor Palpatine (Bill Andrews, GRAD) and Darth Vader, whose main evil was a lack of enunciation and volume in what could have been side-splitting lyrics.

Perhaps that was a hasty presumptionindeed, the lyrics also waxed and waned in terms of their actual effectiveness and humor. While Tatooine, sung by Luke, was an interlude that left the audience feeling optimistic, the majority of the parodies were based on songs far too recognizable to get anything but a previous reaction to. Songs like My Only Hope (based on Aladdins A Whole New World) and The Phantom of the Empire (based on The Phantom of the Opera) were just so similar to the songs we were used to that absorbing and understanding the lyrics proved an exercise in futility. Furthermore, the music caused for some major errors to occur amongst the cast, such as Luke missing the rope to swing himself across the Sarlac pit on, not to mention a Stormtrooper missing his cue then attempting to run off the stage later, leading him to run with his helmet on sideways until he fell loudly on the floor. The music was not terrible across the board, however, as the tangentally relevant Wedges Lament, a solo by Matt Stern 08, was a musical gem, and Luke, Han, and Bens Force Fugue and Han and Leias I Know Tango were both incredibly satisfying to watch as they sang with panache, charisma, and genuine style.

The real strength of the show, however, was not when the actors were hamming it up by singing bad lyrics, but when they were engaged in the truly funny dialogue in the show. When Obi-Wan meets Luke, he says, I knew your father in the dark timesthe Prequels;

and later, when the old Jedis spirit tells Luke that Leia is his sister, he screams in abject fear: Ew! …I kissed her! There is a long pause, and then Obi-Wan awkwardly responds, Bury your feelings… The Emperor will use them against you. When Luke is dueling with Vader in Empire, he switches sword hands: I bet you didnt know I was right-handed! Vader then cuts off Lukes hand, quipping, I guess youre a lefty now! Even background humor, such as Boba Fetts Thriller-esque dance solo and the muppet Animal playing in Mos Eisley Cantina, was particularly inspired. Indeed, Star Wars – The Trilogy: The Musical was mining on the wrong territory, as it was much more enjoyable when they parodied the show using what every Star Wars moviegoer has ever thought instead of just hijacking tired musical numbers.

Brief bits of humor, however, were unable to save this show, which I believe on the whole left a revolting taste of Sith in everyones mouth. Based on the spectacular costumes and the incredible set, MIT had the best theatre money could buy;

unfortunately, money cannot equate to talent. While MIT was more than adept in the building of the show, the actual execution was lackluster, unprofessional, and, perhaps worst of all, overarchingly sloppy. When you see a show where techies are running around unchecked in the middle of scenes and where actors are making more mistakes than successful actions, youre watching a bad show. If you dont believe me, see it for yourselfMIT is running it again this weekend, and there may still be tickets open. But for me, its just depressing that the world premiere of Star Wars – The Trilogy: The Musical had to so incontrovertibly turn to the Dark Side of the Force.