Monday, November 2, 2009

Review: Star Wars In Concert, The Force was with them

Posted By on Mon, Nov 2, 2009 at 1:51 PM

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It may have been the day after Halloween, but thousands of people had plenty good reason to play dress-up this past Sunday afternoon at the St. Pete Times Forum. One didn’t have to look far to find a Yoda or Princess Leia milling about the concourses. Many congregated toward a makeshift exhibit of original Star Wars props and artifacts, including a Darth Vader costume, blasters and helmets. Nearby, children and adults alike sidled up next to Stormtroopers for photo ops. It was all a prelude to the main event inside the arena, Star Wars: In Concert.”

click to enlarge The author's son with a Dark Lord of the Sith.
  • The author's son with a Dark Lord of the Sith.

The performance opened much like a Star Wars film — with the THX crescendo followed by the 20th Century Fox fanfare. Huge curtains that concealed the stage then fell to the floor, revealing the orchestra and a huge high-def screen bearing the iconic blue text that is guaranteed to send shivers up the spine of any fan of scruffy-looking nerf herders: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away …”

With precise synchronicity, the principals commenced the opening flourishes of John Williams’ majestic “Main Title” as the words “Star Wars” receded deep into space. After its final notes had faded, the occasion’s master of ceremonies — none other than C-3PO himself, Anthony Daniels — took the stage to enthusiastic and thunderous applause.

Daniels, looking dapper dressed entirely in black, addressed the crowd with practiced showmanship. He often looked directly into the camera, making eye contact with the throngs as his image was displayed on the large screen behind him. He also slipped into his role for the rest of the concert: providing narration before each music segment, starting with the events of Episode I: The Phantom Menace.

Under the direction of conductor Dirk Brosse, the Royal Philharmonic did an impeccable job of performing Williams’ compositions — from the dark, ominous “Duel of the Fates” (with a live choir) to “Princess Leia’s Theme” — while relevant montages from all six of the films were displayed with each selection. Alas, the celebratory themes from the end of Phantom Menace and Return of the Jedi were missing.

As for Daniels, he was clearly basking in his role, often outstretching his hands as if to cue the expected applause whenever he mentioned a particular character. It’s too bad, however, that he didn’t share any anecdotes about his work on what may be the most popular series in film history,

After the triumphant “Throne Room/End Title,” Daniels announced that the saga was complete. As the crowd roared its appreciation, Brosse and Daniels left the stage for mere seconds before coming back.

“Who wants to return to the Dark Side?” Daniels asked with glint in his eye. Brosse then led his orchestra through a reprise of the “Imperial March.”

While it was nice to hear such memorable themes performed live, the show didn’t deepen or add anything to the legacy of the films. It’s puzzling that for a show devoted to the music of Star Wars, its creators didn’t include brief, recorded intros by Williams before each segment. By now we’re all very familiar with the images and sounds from each of the movies; it would have been nice to hear at least 30 seconds or so of Williams’s insight into what guided his choices when composing each theme. At the very least, it might have meant a little less screen time for Hayden Christensen.

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