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A Musical About Star Wars

Theatre Review by James Wilson - May 4, 2019

Taylor Crousore, Emily McNamara, and Scott Richard Foster
Photo by Michael DÂ’Angora

As the audience assembles at A Musical About Star Wars, the pocket-sized new show at the Kirk Theatre in Theatre Row, trivia questions are projected on a large screen. There are periodic shouts of "Boba Fett!," "Kenny Baker!," and "Tatooine Moisture Farm!" from the diehard franchise fans, and it is clear before the show even begins in what parts of the house the majority of the musical's jokes will land most successfully. This is not to say that people with only passing familiarity with the Star Wars films will not find enough pleasurable moments to keep them amused for ninety minutes (because they probably will), but this show is catnip for individuals who know the difference between an X-wing starfighter and a Twin Ion Engine (TIE) fighter. This is also a musical for people, as the opening-credits crawl and the performers affirm, who believe Star Wars to be much, much, much better than Star Trek.

Directed by Tom and Michael D'Angora, the show has a loose, revue-like structure, but the conceit of A Musical About Star Wars focuses on the personal and professional relationships of the three performers/ characters. Many years before (and in a galaxy far, far away), Taylor (Taylor Crousore) and Scott (Scott Richard Foster) bonded over their shared obsession for the film. Scott worked in a Staten Island Blockbuster and became a mentor, an Obi Wan Kenobi figure, for the then fifteen-year-old Taylor. Their passion apparently coincided with their love of theatre because the two began performing skits with the hope of being featured at the annual Star Wars Con. Much of the information, incidentally, is presented through a metatheatrical song revealing the characters' "B-B-B-Backstories."

According to the characters, while developing the show into a full evening's entertainment, Taylor and Scott realized they needed to have a real-live woman as part of the act. Emily (Emily McNamara), a proud graduate of AMDA and a staunch feminist, happened to be available and joined the hapless duo. Unbeknownst to the two young men, Emily has her own agenda for the show, and it does not involve proselytizing the gospel of Star Wars. She intends to use the performance to showcase her commitment to activist causes and expose the misogynistic and tacitly racist and homophobic elements of the film series.

When her diabolical plan comes to light, the two men strike a deal with her that if they are able to make her a Star Wars believer and supporter by the end of the evening, she will be a permanent company member and the show will continue its scheduled run. She accepts their challenge and tells them to give it a try. Game on, but as Yoda would say, "Do. Or do not. There is no try."

The set-up is admittedly rather silly, but in a format reminiscent of a 1970s variety show, the frame allows for some clever songs (by Billy Reece) and sketches. (Tom D'Angora, Crousure, and Foster wrote the book for the musical.) The best are those that merge Broadway musical kitsch with Star Wars in-jokes. For instance, as if channeling Gerard Allessandrini, the trio performs an incisive Hamilton parody focusing on the story of Anakin Skywalker, who would later become Darth Vader. Using photo masks attached to their foreheads and looking like Julie Taymor Lion King dancers, the three actors humorously synthesize the plot and world of the series' prequel, The Phantom Menace.

Another very funny number includes Taylor and Scott performing a song about "Gen-X Wingers," and they each have an extra set of prosthetic arms, giving the impression of the emblematic X-wing starfighter that Luke Skywalker used to blow up the Death Star. Brendan McCann and William Bailey designed the costumes, and like the most effective Forbidden Broadway constructions, they wittily evoke familiar and iconic images on a shoe-string budget. The designers have a lot of fun, for instance, recreating Princess Leia's gold bikini, slave-woman ensemble. Supposedly created by Taylor's mother (who suffers from debilitating carpal tunnel syndrome), Emily's outfit has a home-made knitted afghan draped in front.

There are some sweet moments as well. Appearing as Chewbacca in one scene, Scott pays tribute to Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewie in the film series and who died last week. Scott offers up a poem in perfect imitation of the character and in flawless Wookiee (or at least to the ears of those who don't speak Wookiee).

Not everything in the show works, and a whiff of tediousness and desperation occasionally creeps into the proceedings. Emily's activism, for example, becomes a little tiresome and one-note, and there is an unnecessary bit featuring audience participation. Two people, who self-identify as the most devoted and knowledgeable fans take to the stage and participate in several rounds of trivia. Taylor, Scott, and Emily make for a winning ensemble, so they do not need any assistance.

It might take more than a Jedi mind trick to convince musical theatre devotees that this is one of the all-time great musicals, but it is still much, much, much better than. . . . Well, we'll just have to wait for A Musical About Star Trek to arrive at the final verdict.

A Musical About Star Wars
Through June 29
Kirk Theatre at Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street between 9th and 10th Avenues
Tickets online and current Performance Schedule: Telecharge