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'The Phantom Of The Empire': You Guessed It, Musical And Star Wars Combined


What do you get when you cross "Star Wars" with the Broadway musical "Phantom Of The Opera?" Ask the San Diego theater troupe Turning Tydes. They're experimenting with that wacky combo in a show called "Phantom Of The Empire." The show hopes to win the hearts and minds of some of the thousands of Comic-Con fans descending on San Diego next week. KPBS's Beth Accomando reports.

BETH ACCOMANDO, BYLINE: As part of a ragtag rebel alliance, you have to be resourceful. Same goes for a rebel musical theater company mounting a geeky mash-up of "Star Wars" and "The Phantom Of The Opera," says artistic director and actress Jordan Hall Campbell.

JORDAN HALL CAMPBELL: If I had to make this show out of only things I could find in my house, what would I use? OK, we need a Death Star. What do we have? Oh, there's an exercise ball. It's great.

ACCOMANDO: Twenty-five-year-old Campbell is part of Turning Tydes, which will present "The Phantom Of The Empire" outside Comic-Con next week.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (As character, singing) I'm the phantom of the Empire but also, Luke, I am your father.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTORS: (As character, singing) Your dad, the phantom...

JAMES HEBERT: Yeah - Leia, Luke - you know, the whole gang's here, so...

ACCOMANDO: James Hebert writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune and is just one of the theater critics charmed by "The Phantom Of The Empire."

HEBERT: You have to sort of speed through all these plot points and all these characters.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #2: (As character, singing) Well, not us. Just Luke and Leia, Chewie, Lando, Han.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #3: (As character, singing) R2, I think they get the point.

HEBERT: It was clever in the way that the show found its path through all that material.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #4: (Singing) When you see this hologram of me, please heed my words or we are doomed. You must warn the rebel alliance, destroy the Death Star soon.

ACCOMANDO: The Death Star was, of course, the evil Empire's moon-sized weapon of mass destruction in "Star Wars."

CAMPBELL: OK, so let's work the Death Star bit. So we have 15 - 50 seconds to fill before the Death Star enters.

SUMMER BLINCO: We went through so many ideas for the Death Star.

ACCOMANDO: Summer Blinco is the lead writer of the show and plays Luke to Jordan Hall Campbell's Leia.

BLINCO: Do we make it a cardboard cutout? Do we make it a ball on a string? Do we, like...

CAMPBELL: It was a pinata at one point that we were going to break open and have candy inside. But we're like, it takes so long to break it open. We can't do it.

BLINCO: But we went for the idea that had more movement, and we wanted to make the Death Star, you know, a person that could actually die.

ACCOMANDO: Not die in any ordinary manner. Shane Ruddick Allen plays C-3PO. He says they had to do justice to the climactic destruction of the Death Star. They did that by making the Death Star a ballerina in a silver exercise ball dancing on pointe. And she goes down like the most flamboyant Odette of any "Swan Lake."

SHANE RUDDICK ALLEN: I love that it's an homage to the phantom side of our show and "The Phantom Of The Opera."

KRIS EITLAND: Who thinks of something like that?

ACCOMANDO: Kris Eitland is the theater critic at San Diego Story, an online publication covering the arts in San Diego. She thinks the show is clever and howlingly funny.

EITLAND: They could sing so well. They really could sing.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR #1: (Singing) A jedi lives, the light has a resurgence. This mask that hides my face instills fear in every race.

ACCOMANDO: Turning Tydes hopes the force is strong enough in its show to draw Comic-Con's discerning attendees to their tiny rebel outpost, known in this galaxy as the Geoffrey Off Broadway theatre. For NPR News, I'm Beth Accomando in a galaxy far, far away. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Beth Accomando

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