First thing’s first. The people who were betting that I would cry at some point during Star Wars in Concert. were…absolutely right. But how could I not? When those words appeared on the screen and a full orchestra, just a few feet away, launched into the most stirring movie theme of all time, I choked up, my eyes watered, and I was sold. They could have started waterboarding me after that, and I’d still have said I had the time of my life. In fact, as I sat enraptured and teary-eyed, I suddenly realized this was as close as I would ever come to any sort of religious or spiritual experience. People who were expecting dancing Stormtroopers or singing Wookies got something much more reverent instead: a beautiful and surprisingly poignant retelling of the story of Anakin Skywalker, his successes, his failures, his family and his friends. Narrated live by none other than Anthony Daniels (C-3PO himself), the story wove together both the musical and metaphorical themes throughout all six Star Wars chapters. Daniels brought just the right amount of whimsy, respect and gravitas to the task, and I couldn’t help thinking of the scene in Jedi, where Threepio recounts the adventures of the rebels to the Ewoks. During the course of the movies, he had finally become a storyteller, and it was especially fitting to have him as a guide for this musical event.
Clips from all the films played on a giant digital screen as the orchestra and choir brought the iconic music to life on stage. “Duel of the Fates” has never sounded better or more urgent. The clips and music, as well as the narration, followed the story pretty much chronologically from Phantom Menace to Jedi. At first I was distracted by the intercutting of clips from later films into earlier scenes, but soon realized they were drawing parallels across all the films, connecting the dots. As stirring as the first half was, my favorite selections from the evening were “Princess Leia’s Theme” and “Yoda’s Theme/Training of a Jedi”. By now, you probably know I’m something of a Leia fanatic, and I never think she gets the attention she deserves. So I was thrilled to see the entire performance of her theme accompanying a tribute to the often unsung heroine of the Star Wars universe. The theme itself, beautiful and sad, was probably the high point of the concert. As the clip showed her watching helplessly as Alderaan vanished forever, and the melancholy music soared to a crescendo, I found new empathy for the princess without a home, who could only say, “We have no time for our sorrows” before moving on with her mission. “Yoda’s Theme,” haunting and delicate, accompanied a montage of Yoda’s scenes throughout all the films, focusing, of course, on his meeting and training Luke. If you’re not still impressed by his rescue of Luke’s X-Wing and his show of wisdom and strength, then you might just be dead inside.
My only complaints about the presentation were of a technical nature. With the power of Lucasfilm behind it, I expected technological perfection. Instead, there were a few glitches with the screen, some missed cues and a somewhat dated use of lasers. Star Wars seems somehow grander and more advanced than the tired old laser show making circles and boxes on the ceiling of the theater. The music, brilliantly conducted by Dirk Brossé, more than made up for these minor issues. I also have to give some credit to the audience. Decked out in Jedi robes and periodically waving lightsabers, it was a surprisingly communal, jubilant shared experience among a crowd of every possible demographic. People even cheered for the prequel trilogy, which I don’t often experience. It was a gorgeous musical and film presentation, and I think people realized how special the whole event was. The only squabble I heard all evening went something like this:
Kid: Look, sword sabers!
Mom: Not sword sabers. Just sabers.
Star Wars in Concert is coming to a city near you! Check the tour schedule on the official site. Don’t miss it!