First Night: Star Wars, A Musical Journey, O2 London

May the fortissimo be with you, always
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The Independent Culture

The exploitation of the Star Wars franchise continues at light speed. The 1977 space adventure has already spawned two much-loved sequels and three derided prequels and having rung up more than $4bn in cinema box-office receipts, George Lucas – not content with an animated series, a plethora of secondary merchandise and a forthcoming TV show – is attempting to wow us with a musical show in concert halls across the globe. But unlike many of his other attempts, this show is rather enjoyable.

The world premiere of Star Wars: A Musical Journey is first and foremost a celebration of John Williams’ score. As the lights dimmed, the event started not with music from the movie, but the 20th Century Fox ditty that accompanies the studio logo before each movie. Then to audience cheers, the curtain dropped and the famous theme tune kicked in.

Behind the stage housing the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was a giant screen brought over from America. At a cost of $4m it is the biggest screen currently being used in Europe and the picture quality was suitably stunning. Across it was emblazoned the immortal opening text: “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away...”

This was followed by the first surprise, a montage sequence that started with an image of Luke Skywalker from Star Wars: A New Hope and continued in the order that the films were released rather than starting with The Phantom Menace and moving in chronological plot order.

However this was not a veiled acceptance that the original trilogy is infinitely better than the prequel trilogy. Once the theme had finished being played, British actor Anthony Daniels who played robot C3PO, the only actor used in all six movies, walked on stage. Playing the musical accompaniment was the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (rather than the London Philharmonic, who recorded the original score), led by Belgian conductor Dirk Brosse.

On the first instrumental number the orchestra was shown playing on the giant screen. However once this courtesy was completed, it was images from the movie and Daniels’ narration that took centre stage.

Throughout the show there was a presumption that the audience knew all the characters (and for those few that did not, the light-sabre thin plot meant that it didn’t take much to work out what was going on).

Although the story was told chronologically, the action shown on screen was not. Lucas had broken up the story into the main themes, and so when Daniels talked of Clone Wars, Droids or Anakin Skywalker, images of these events or personages from all the films were collated together. Although they were like a series of movie trailers being playing alongside each other, it was far more enjoyable then having to watch any scene with Jar Jar Binks.

Daniels’ script had a good dose of comedy too. His ironic introduction of C3PO as a “masterpiece of engineering, an amazing droid” only came to a stop when conductor Brosse turned and looked at him in mock disgust. The audience were happy to contribute as well, with one especially droll cheer belted out when Daniels announced that Anakin had turned into Darth Vader. The loudest cheers were reserved for Han Solo and Yoda.

Fittingly, the evening ended with images of John Williams recording each of the six movie scores from 1977 to 2005. Meanwhile, Daniels played to the crowd, right to his final muttering of: “May the Force be with you, always.”