Review – Star Wars: In Concert July 2, 2010

Did you guys know I like Star Wars? I do.


The problem with tributes and spinoffs is the added challenge of anyone organizing one to convince a person that their time and money is better spent on the derivative work than on the source. Star Wars in Concert tries to do that with an art form that has become as niche as it gets. Travelling with a full orchestra and outfitting GM Place with a set of giant screens to display appropriate montages from the films their music is taken from, the concert series is a compelling distraction but falls short of satisfying your Star Wars itch.

Star Wars is notable for many reasons, but the scores by John Williams are placed front and centre for this event. While some scores sit idle in the background of movies, it’s hard to imagine Star Wars being what it is today without the evocative sounds accompanying the action. Indeed, Williams’ contributions to the two trilogies are likely the most memorable suites in film history, and while others have gained similar notoriety (Vangelis for Blade Runner, Clint Mansell for Requiem for a Dream, John Murphy for Sunshine), none have the breadth to encourage a stadium event. From the “Imperial March” to the iconic Star Wars main theme, the songs he created have become shorthand for cinematic musical achievement.

Star Wars in Concert does its best to do justice to that legacy, and musically does so in spades. The orchestra travelling with the show put on pitch perfect renditions of every moment from the films. One wonders if any of the people (and children in incredible numbers) in attendance would ever experience a full symphony in their lives were it not for the films attached, so it’s a credit to the music’s popularity that it can pull in an unlikely crowd.

Stellar band aside, the production had its flaws. Ticket prices were on the high side ($41 for one adult) putting it fairly out of reach for students, and the exhibit of classic costumes and props were sparse, hardly justifying the premium. Anthony Daniels (the voice of C-3PO) acted as narrator and host for the evening, but his overenthusiasm bordered on mugging the entire night. Instead of providing any insight into the scores or the films, he opted instead for grandiose stroking of their brilliance, replete with sweeping physical gestures and out-of-place, “are you ready to rock?”-type pump ups for the audience. What’s worse is that the program ran canonically through the films, starting with The Phantom Menace. It broke off occasionally to play themes associated with various characters (Anakin and Padme, R2D2, and C-3PO, Luke on Dagobah), ignoring the obvious choice to put the brilliant Revenge of the Sith duel suite at any sort of climax and burying the series’ best musical moment. The montages played behind the orchestra simply made you want to go watch the movies, a problematic evocation as the music was already ripped from context. There was little to argue you should be there and not a home with a stack of DVDs.

Star Wars in Concert is a brilliant idea in theory, but the entire package cannot justify the ticket price. For half the price, it would have been incredible.