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Concert review: "Star Wars: In Concert" brings The Force to the Ford Center

By Brandy McDonnell - Entertainment Writer - Modified: October 22, 2009 at 4:12 am •  Published: October 22, 2009
From the familiar opening fanfare to the thunderous “Imperial March,” “Star Wars: In Concert” packed in enough memorable, goosebump-inducing moments to fill a Super Star Destroyer.

An odd but entertaining mix of orchestral performance, laser light show and motion picture montage, the concert Wednesday night thrilled fans of George Lucas’ iconic films and proved just how hollow and unremarkable those movies would be without John Williams’ indelible scores.

The show brought an estimated 8,000 followers of the space saga to the Ford Center, leaving a surprising number of empty seats in the arena. The multigenerational crowd ranged from middle-aged concert-goers dressed for a night at the symphony to children and young adults disguised as Darth Vader, Princess Leia or Stormtroopers.

Fans who got there early were able to tour a special exhibit featuring pages of Williams’ hand-written sheet music, conceptual renderings and full costumes for Chewbacca, C-3PO, Darth Vader and more.

The multimedia event was clearly aimed at true-blue fans of the sci-fi saga, offering a new way to enjoy the resonant tale of good and evil, Jedi and droids, light sabers and Death Stars.

The show opened in grand fashion, with a white sheet still concealing the massive stage as the lights dimmed suddenly and the orchestra launched into the “Twentieth Century Fox Fanfare.” The shadowy players were revealed when the curtain dramatically dropped away and the symphony stormed into the magnificent “Star Wars Theme.”

Scenes and characters from all six films — “Episode I — The Phantom Menace” (1999), “Episode II — Attack of the Clones” (2002), “Episode III — Revenge of the Sith” (2005), “Episode IV — A New Hope” (1977), “Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back” (1980) and “Episode VI — Return of the Jedi” (1983) — intermingled on the three-story-tall LED screen.

Darth Vader’s well-known rasp of breath preceded James Earl Jones’ pre-recorded introduction of the show’s narrator, Anthony Daniels, who played prim protocol droid C-3PO in all six movies.

Decked out in a dashing black suit rather than his robotic alter ego’s golden armor, the British actor proved a warm and welcoming host and engaging storyteller.

The spectacle, which ran two hours with a 20-minute intermission, paid tribute to the beloved characters and told the heroic tale in roughly chronological order. The performance was divided into segments with titles like “Dark Forces Conspire,” “A Hero Rises” and “A Bond Unbroken,” and Daniels suavely set the stage for each one.

But he also showed off a sharp sense of humor: Before the orchestra played the drolly atmospheric “The Desert/The Robot Auction,” he effusively praised C-3PO’s sensitivity, intelligence and engineering until conductor Mark Watters silenced him with a pointed look and an eye roll.