[Header image courtesy onemanstarwars.com]
Charles Ross really likes Star Wars.
We mean really, really likes Star Wars.
The Canadian actor and standup comedian is coming up on his fifteenth year of performing the Star Wars trilogy–the original one, natch–in a super-condensed version. He does the voices, the creatures, the special effects, even the soundtrack with nothing more but his voice and many years of performing. No pre-recorded soundtracks. No costumes. No props. Just him. By hand. Solo.
In his performance Wednesday night as part of the Starlight Theatre’s “Starlight Indoors” series, Ross powered through each of the movies in record time: A New Hope takes a mere 25 minutes. Empire Strikes Back? Fifteen. Even Return of the Jedi comes in just a shade over twenty. And through it all, he leaps back and forth from character to character, switching between voices and characterizations back and forth at speed without popping the clutch once. Through it all, he spreads various humorous observations of his own on kissing your sister, medal-less Wookiees, and the Rebel Alliance’s use of the metric system (hey, could be worse. Could be Imperial).
In between “movies”, Ross talks about his childhood and his time watching the movies with his father. He recalls doing the first movie condensed out of a need for some material to perform between acting gigs. Much to his surprise, it took off, and before he knew it he (with some help from his friend T. J. Dawe) had created an entire condensed trilogy. He began to tour with it, and one day, when asked during an NPR interview what George Lucas thought of it, said that he was probably so small and insignificant that Lucas no doubt neither knew or cared about him or his show.
The next day, Lucasfilm came calling.
After “auditioning” for them by performing at ComicCon, he received official blessing from the company to continue performing as a kind of “Living Action Figure”. And since that time, he’s been around the world, performing the trilogy over 4,000 times in 500 cities, being paid to do what many of our eight-year-old selves did in the living room for free.
He doesn’t just do Star Wars, though: over the years he has developed one man versions of Lord of the Rings, The Dark Knight, and is even working on a version of Pride and Prejudice.
One Man Star Wars Trilogy is a fun, frenetic performance, but most of all it is a labor of love. Ross’s affection for the source material is evident at every beat, even those moments when he tweaks some peculiarity of the original movies. It’s not just a distillation of the films, it is a celebration of them, and the wonder they stamped on childhoods past and present.
(One Man Star Wars Trilogy is performing through Jan 31 at the Starlight Theatre. Tickets may be purchased at the box office or at http://www.kcstarlight.com.)