TMT delivers evening of lightsaber theater

Thanks to the creativity and talent of TCNJ Musical Theatre’s writers and director, George Lucas’ classic trilogy has gone where no musical has gone before: a galaxy far, far away. “Star Wars! The Musical,” which played on Kendall Hall’s Main Stage from March 27 to 30, was a self-professed parody. It was stupid. It was nonsensical. It had Darth Vader in a flowered apron and pink oven mitts. And it was also the funniest thing I’ve seen in my entire life.

Unfortunate sound problems aside, the show was practically perfect from start to finish. The staging was creative and the music was superb. None of the songs in the play were originals, however.

Song highlights from Act IV were: “A Blown Up World” (borrowed from Disney’s “Aladdin”); a touching duet between the evil Grand Moff Tarkin (junior music major Brian Michalowski) and Princess Leia (sophomore communication studies major Elaine White) as she watches her home planet destroyed by the Death Star; “Greased Falcon,” where Han Solo (sophomore English major Ray Fallon) tells his newest customers about the merits of the Millennium Falcon through song and suggestive hip movements ? la Danny Zuko; and “Evil Sith Lord,” where Darth Vader (junior business major Dan Keyser) is as close to a “Sweet Transylvanian Transvestite” as an evil Sith Lord can get.

The mayhem continued during Act V – “The Empire Strikes Back” – when Yoda (sophomore computer science major Vincent St. John) informs Luke Skywalker (senior marketing major Maria Aromando), “A Friend in Me, You’ve Got,” the only song I’ve ever heard make use of inverted syntax (Yoda-speak). At the end of the act everyone decided to not give up and to rescue Han just so they could sing the rousing “We’re All in Space Together” (yes, even “High School Musical” made an appearance), which brought the younger members of the audience to their feet to dance.

And finally, Act VI, in whichthe Jedi return, featured “It’s the Ewok’s Life,” performed by teddy bears gone horribly, horribly wrong. During Luke and Darth’s climatic fight scene, the rebels and the empire figuratively duel with opposing songs: “Luke, Be a Jedi” (from “Guys and Dolls”), and “Sith” (from “Fame”). Three guesses who wins. And finally, an emotional duet performed between father and son – “For Good” (from “Wicked”), which includes the infamous line, “Because I dueled you, I will be dead for good.”

This show would not have succeeded if either of the following occurred: one, the actors took themselves too seriously, or two, the actors took themselves too seriously. Every performance was no-holds-barred and each part was perfectly cast, but a few performances stood out.

C-3PO, played by Jason Beers, sophomore mathematics major, was properly annoying and British with his ever-present line, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Rudy Basso portrayed Obi-Wan Kenobi as a horny old man with words of wisdom like, “So? I died in Act IV and here we are in Act VI, chatting away,” when Luke is distraught over Yoda’s death. Junior history major Vincent Scafuto was scarily accurate as Emperor Palpatine in both looks and voice. And Aromando played Luke Skywalker, one of the most fabled heroes in cinematic history, as a whiney, annoying little brat.

As the least-parodied character, White was a great Princess Leia with her sympathetic looks and her easy handling of Han Solo. Speaking of Han Solo, Fallon was the perfect tough, swaggering space scoundrel who had Leia (along with all the girls in the audience) swooning after his every line (including his “Yahoo!” which put Harrison Ford to shame).

Two people, however, clearly got the loudest ovations from the audience during curtain call. St. John, though playing the small part of Yoda (with an equally small puppet), had a Yoda voice so impressive that you’d have thought he was channeling Frank Oz, and he mastered all of his difficult backward lines like he’d been speaking that way all his life.

And finally, well, what can I really say about Keyser? He played the role of Darth Vader as if that was all he was born to do. He was flamboyant, overtly sexual and the nicest Sith Lord to ever try and conquer the galaxy. He had so many one-liners and sight gags, it’s literally impossible to choose one above the others.

Through it all – the lightsaber duels, the singing, the dancing and the Ewoks without pants (it’s Ewok Rule Number 37, after all), “Star Wars! The Musical” was an amazing and remarkably enjoyable experience. As one crazed fan, played by Rowena Briones, senior communication studies major, said, “Term papers come and go, but ‘Star Wars’ is forever.”