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The Force Is With Star Wars Stage Show

Of the Oakland Press

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The saga of “Star Wars” worked on the big screen — to the tune of $4.3 billion at box offi ces worldwide. Now producers of “Star Wars: In Concert” are betting that the tunes from the science fiction saga will play on stage, too.

“Star Wars: In Concert” turns the story into a musical epic, with British actor Anthony Daniels, who played the fussy protocol droid C3PO, narrating as scenes from the six films show on a 60x35-foot high-definition LED screen while an 86-piece orchestra and a 60-voice choir perform 14 of composer John Williams’ score pieces from the series.

“It’s not like seeing anything in your living room, I’ll tell you that,” says touring producer Spencer Churchill, whose previous road credits include Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac and Barbra Streisand. “This is on a scale that fits the kind of epic ‘Star Wars’ has become.”

Churchill says the impetus for “Star Wars: In Concert” was “Star Wars: A Musical Journey,” which series creator George Lucas commissioned as a bonus DVD for the “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith” soundtrack in 2005. Lucas and his cohorts then approached the production firm Another Planet in Berkeley, Calif., with the idea of turning “A Musical Journey” into a roadshow.

“We basically took their concept, that (‘A Musical Journey’) show, and we sized it up a bit,” Churchill explains.

The “Star Wars: In Concert” show, which debuted in April at the O2 Arena in London, requires 15 trucks to haul around the country, including one that takes a duplicate set of the steel stage infrastructure to the next city so it can be set up in advance of the show. The orchestra members travel with the tour, while the choirs are put together from local singers in each tour stop.

“Star Wars: In Concert” also travels with an exhibition of props and memorabilia that Churchill says is as big a hit as the actual show. “It’s a real bonus for people to come and see the stuff,” Churchill says of the material, which includes costumes, storyboards, miniatures and other holdings from LucasFilm’s well-protected vaults.

“We have 16 films as part of it, and I’ve seen kids curl up in front of the screens on the concourse, like they’re in their living room. Every time I walk out front, you find people glued to something that’s part of the display.”

That area in particular is something Churchill hopes to grow and continue to develop as the show continues to tour over the years. “They threw open the (vault) doors to let me browse,” he notes, “but that doesn’t mean they gave me everything I wanted. We had to prove to them we could tour it properly, which we’ve done.”

Churchill, in fact, envisions “Star Wars: In Concert” as a long-term endeavor, with plans for “going around the world.” Specific details are being determined, and he says that “we have a lot more options overseas.” And that, no doubt, will be welcome news to the legion of devoted “Star Wars” fans.

“ ‘Star Wars’ fans seem to really love it,” Churchill says, “and we’ve talked to a lot of people who have never seen the ‘Star Wars’ movies or have only seen a couple of them and are not hardcore fans that are just knocked out by this thing.

“It really is a fantastic romp through the imagery and the music. We’ve tried to pay attention to every detail, whether in the exhibit or the film itself because the ‘Star Wars’ fans know the stuff so well. They’ve pretty much signed off on it; they’re all really knocked out by the overall experience.”

“Star Wars: In Concert” takes place at 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 28) at the Palace, Lapeer Road at I-75, Auburn Hills. Tickets are $35, $55 and $75. Call (248) 377-0100 or visit www.palacenet.com.

Web Site: www.palacenet.com

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