Even the most knowledgeable “Star Wars” fan probably didn’t know Darth Vader keeps a grocery list handy when shopping.
Nonetheless, the sinister deadbeat-dad turned respectable-papa sings about this truth in the Bootless Stageworks original parody “Star Wars: A New Musical Hope,” which premieres tonight at the OperaDelaware Black Box Theater.
The production celebrates the 35th anniversary of “Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope,” chronicling the film in satirical manner, featuring more than 50 characters played by nearly two dozen actors, including favorites like Vader, Luke Skywalker, R2-D2, Han Solo, Chewbacca, stormtroopers and a host of aliens.
The production was written by playwright Jeremy Gable, with music and lyrics from Timothy Edward Smith and Hunter Nolen, as well as additional music and lyrics from Robert Diton and Rosanne DellAversano, who’s also the director.
DellAversano, 47, of Wilmington, — whose husband (Jerry) is the musical director, and daughter (Micki Barone) is the stage manager — discusses the genesis of “A New Musical Hope,” and more.
Q In what ways does your production parody “Star Wars?”
A Hans is not the brightest of people [laughs]. We have a tap dancer in the cantina, and Hans has a joke about the tap dancing. They’re saying lines that you may know, but it’s how they’re said, the context of how they’re said, and when they’re said is what makes it funny. And Jeremy has written new words and new jokes in there. Darth Vader comes in and does this jazzy number about how he’s such an evil presence. And the stormtroopers lead him off with Gregorian chant. So you have little silly things like that.
Q What gave you the idea to develop “Star Wars: A New Musical Hope?”
A Me and my husband, Jim, were surfing the Web — which is what I do — and I happened to see a blip about “Star Wars” the musical — “A Musical Journey” is what they’re calling it — and that’s the one John Williams was doing with full orchestras and they were doing tours. A couple pages into my search I saw this one group that had done “Star Wars: The Musical,” and we knew that someone also did “Star Wars: The Musical” at the College of New Jersey. We looked at those productions, but they were basically taking the script from the screenplay and using music from other shows and changing the words. These two guys [Smith and Nolan], while they were in college in Florida, actually made their own music. They were bored, playing with Legos or something, and they said, “We’re going to make music about the stupidest parts of ‘Star Wars.’” And they did. They got their friends together and they recorded it and put it on the Web. We listened to it and it was so neat. I said we have to do it, it’s just so kitschy. We do kitschy stuff.
Page 2 of 3 - Q How long have you been planning this production?
A I’ve been planning this for about 15 months, because I planned it a year ahead of time in March of 2011, for this season. And we contacted the guys [about using their music] and they said, “That would be great!” And they were great because using their music is free. They don’t get any royalties for it, otherwise [George] Lucas would sue them. A couple of other groups have done a “Star Wars” musical, but what makes ours different is the fact that we needed a costume change for Luke and Han, so we have new music that was written by local composer Robert Diton, and I wrote the lyrics.
Q Why did you decide to shape this show around “A New Hope,” as opposed to chronicling all three original films?
A We like the fact that Lucas… when you listen to interviews with Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill — the one thing that’s always talked about is how bad the acting was, and how unprepared they were, and no one knew what they were doing. That’s funny, because it’s such an iconic series with sequels and trilogies that came out of that one bad movie; and there’s a cult following. Again, Bootless sort of takes in the cult. After “Star Wars” we’re going to remount our “Evil Dead: The Musical,” and then next season open with “Jerry Springer: The Opera.” We just keep building upon those cults, because it’s wonderful to somebody who’s never usually gone to live theatre before, since they’ll come to something like this, and they see live theater for the first time maybe, and they’re like, “Wow, that was really neat.” And then they’ll try something else that’s maybe a little bit more mainstream. You have to keep live theater out there for people to experience. And usually it’s just getting them in the door that’s the difficult part. Once they’re in the door, and if you give them a wonderful experience, they’re hooked.
Q Since this production is a parody, you didn’t have to pay for rights to use the “Stars Wars” name, correct?
A When you’re doing a parody, it’s okay [laughs]. And we had Philadelphia playwright Jeremy Gable — who has worked with us — write the script.
Q What’s it been like working on this show?
A We’ve been working on this show since March of 2011, so that means finding and getting Jeremy to do the final scripting, putting the music together, then holding auditions; and it’s not easy finding people who can play these roles. Personality wise, we knew we wanted to use some former Bootless people, but we knew we wanted new people to bring in for certain roles. The gentleman playing Obi-Wan [Sean Yates], he came in to audition and he sang a standard musical piece. I looked at him and said, “The song you just sang, could you sing it again, but in a Les Mis style?” Sing it as if Jean Valjean is singing it. He took a moment and he sang it. And he was kind of giggling as he was doing it. Then I said, “But that’s Obi-Wan.” And that’s how the guys wrote the music. They wrote it in the parody form of, they wanted to take from “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera,” Les Mis and bring all those goofy — kind of — over the top feelings into “Star Wars.”
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