I’m very, very excited to tread new ground with this blog post. For the first time at theaterinchicagoreviews, we have a guest blogger: Star Wars fan and emerging theater enthusiast Matt Davis (a fellow English teacher at Bartlett High School). Please enjoy not one but two analysis of this enduring one-man show.
From Matt Davis
Star Wars has always been more than the just the films. As any average consumer knows, the ubiquitous Star Wars logo and innumerable items that go along with the film franchise seem to dominate every clothing store, toy aisle, school supply aisle, cereal aisle, yogurt packaging, board game, henhouse, outhouse, doghouse, etc. Books, animated series, and countless internet parodies (not to mention a much-beloved Mel Brooks classic) have also been created by and for the devoted. Fans of the franchise (this blogger included) will unapologetically snatch up these items and dive into anything and everything Star Wars. And, for the past 15 years, the Star Wars fandom has been flocking to Charlie Ross’ One Man Star Wars Trilogy.
Charlie Ross is hilariously mesmerizing on stage. With the use of not one single prop or wardrobe change, Ross whisks his audience through the original trilogy at break-neck speed. What I appreciate most about his performance at the Broadway Playhouse was how he absolutely nails each and every character he jumped into. From Luke Skywalker’s whiney voice to Han Solo’s swagger, Ross proves he did his homework. His R2-D2 whistles are spot on as are his TIE fighter and lightsaber sounds.
Other than being able to perform first-rate impressions, Ross is able to go beyond that. The vast majority of the audience was filled with people who have seen the film numerous times (with the exception of the two very confused elderly women in the front row). To simply have a word-for-word replaying of the films would provide no surprises. However, the nods that Ross makes to the little idiosyncrasies of the films are a highlight. The audience knows about the one character who mispronounces Princess Leia as “Princess LEE-ya”, and Ross plays that part up. He does the same with Chewbacca’s snub at the medal ceremony, Vader’s over pronunciation of “sister”, Emperor Palpatine’s ability to make every word sound over-the-top evil, along with other countless moments that the audience has been cherishing since childhood.
For a Star Wars fan, Ross’ show is joyous. On many occasions, Ross broke the fourth wall and laughed along with the audience—an act that seemed to warm the audience over even more. Here is a performer who loves what he does on a nightly basis, and he appreciates that people would take time out of their day to share in the madness that is his show. At the end of the performance when he sat on the stage and went through his story of bringing his one-man show into existence, he summed up very poignantly why still to this day he gravitates to the Star Wars galaxy: he just loves the story.
From Jeff Horler (note: frogman25 is a nod to the horned frogs of TCU, my alma mater)
Great parody often requires little more than condensing a well-known source material. Consider the 30-second movies from angryalien.com (personal favorite: Titanic) or the minuscule book summaries from Books-a-Minute (Hamlet: Whine whine whine… to be or not to be… I’m Dead. THE END).
Charles Ross has carved a time-tested niche for himself with One-Man Star Wars Trilogy, a show that carries significant nostalgia for me—it is the only show I ever saw as a “guys night” with just my father and brother. On that first viewing more than 10 years ago, Star Wars was the draw. How can one person condense six hours of beloved, special-effects dominated film into one hour… without film or special effects? Now, upon a second viewing, I realize that the real draw is the brilliant comedian Charles Ross.
The presentation transcends spot-on mimicry as Ross contorts his face and his vocal cords to imitate androids, wookies, and Jedis alike. Generally, Ross recites a line exactly as stated in the movie, which enhances the humor of his slight modifications. My personal favorite moments include the Emperor’s drawn-out, uncontrollably gleeful expulsion of the classic line: “Come, boy, see for yourself. From here, you will witness the final destruction of the Alliance and the end… of your… insignificant… re… bell… ion,” followed closely by the strangulation of Jabba the Hut complete with spasmodic tale (done with absolutely not props). Give Ross credit for resisting the temptation to reference every Star Wars controversy—no mention, for example, is made to “who shot first.”*
Ross’s energy is explosive as he becomes an X-wing destroying the Death Star or an AT-AT Walker collapsing to the ground. Yet, the reason that One-Man Star Wars Trilogy has toured for 15 years is because Ross is more than just a comedian. He is the rare performer granted the opportunity to break the fourth wall and explore his passion for performance.
Between “A New Hope” and “Empire Strikes Back,” Ross told an emotional story about his father, who tried to build upon his son’s passion for Star Wars. The result? An 8-year-old is forced to spare his father’s feelings by pretending that Star Wars movies and Star Trek movies are one and the same. Later, following his presentation of “Return of the Jedi,” Ross related the show’s progression into the Lucasfilm family, beginning with an ominous e-mail. To paraphrase: “We are Lucasfilm, and we know about you.”
Ross’s newest work (adding to his repertoire of One-Man Lord of the Rings) is a One-Man Pride and Prejudice, based on the famed BBC miniseries (a favorite of one of my best friends). I don’t know if it will be enough to motivate me to watch 5 hours and 27 of Colin Firth at his moodiest, but I will certainly be in attendance for Ross’s version if it hits Chicago or San Diego.
*I’m fearful of offending Star Wars fans with the slightest inaccuracy toward that “galaxy far, far away.” Please note any issues under Comments.