As a lifelong Star Wars fan (especially the Original Trilogy) I am protective of the franchise that has given me so much joy for the last 45 years of my life. One thing I don’t do is sexualize Star Wars, so I was a bit hesitant to attend the Australian Star Wars burlesque production, “The Empire Strips Back.”
But boy, am I glad I did.
Probably the most fun I’ve had at a show all year (and I’ve seen “Moulin Rouge: The Musical” five times this summer), this funny, clever, technically brilliant, and yes, even sexy show is a must-see for Star Wars fans and anyone that likes a bawdy good time. And you don’t have to be a heterosexual man to get into it!
That’s the thing, too. While some will think this is a nudie show, it isn’t. That’s not what burlesque is. Instead, it’s teasing and demure while also being pretty darn sexy and surprising with some top-tier talent. This isn’t just sexy women dancing in nerdy costumes around familiar movie props to pop songs. Some numbers are full-on choreographed group dance routines.
That was the most impressive part of the show because it starts somewhat expectedly. After our host and em-cee Eric Newton (dressed as Lando Calrissian) warms up the audience, the first act is revealed: a woman dressed as Luke Skywalker on Tatooine decides to give their land speeder a wash. Set to Nikki Minaj’s “Starships,” it was fun and flirty, and the men and women in the audience were cheering and howling.
But as the night moves on, the sequences get more and more elaborate with high-energy dance routines, bigger sets, more elaborate costumes, and some ribald humor thrown in. Tevyn Cole (the only other male in the cast) gets his freak on in a number of aggressively choreographed routines, one of which involves his buddy Chewbacca and a little homoerotica!
At times the show can be campy (wait’ll you see the Emperor sequence), other times darkly erotic (a solo dance with a red lightsaber), and oftentimes simply playful (Leia loses her buns and more to Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer.”)
The lighting and production here are top-notch. The costumes, masks, and props are perfectly realized, and Russall S. Beattie’s production spares no expense with the dazzling theatrics on display. You walk in thinking you’re going to see a simple “lark” but end up seeing a full-on Vegas show.
It’s clear you will walk into a crowd of riled-up heterosexual men who are living out their childhood fantasies, but the women in the crowd equally enjoyed themselves, and sci-fi geeks and gays who love a good show were all thoroughly entertained, and just as rowdy; myself included.
It truly is the show to see this holiday season. I know, I know, who would have thought? But Beattie’s production has been at light speed for almost ten years now and shows no signs of being dragged away by a tractor beam. And I hope it never does.