A long time ago, in a dorm room far, far away . . . .
A Star Wars musical was born. What began as the musings of two high school friends who shared a love of Star Wars and musicals became a way to avoid homework at college, then finally, unbelievably, an actual stage production.
In April 2005, Star Wars: Musical Edition was performed at Celebration III, the largest Star Wars convention, in Indianapolis. But the story of how the musical came about is full of friendship, betrayal, amputations, and lava. This, however, is the "original vision" version of events that led to the creation of the musical.
The Saga Begins
Rogue Shindler and Jeff Suess grew up in Modesto, California, hometown of George Lucas, and attended Lucas's alma mater, Thomas Downey High School. They were both big Star Wars fans; they read the new Timothy Zahn novels and played the role-playing game. Towards the end of high school (1993-94), inspired by MAD magazine and "Weird Al" Yankovic parodies, they had the idea to write song parodies of Broadway hits set to Star Wars. They tried their best to entertain and top each other, just for fun. Some of the first songs were "Fugue for Jedi" based on Guys and Dolls' "Fugue for Tinhorns" ("I got the Force right here . . .") and "Eechewawa," set to "Oklahoma," done entirely in Ewokese.
They went to college together, first Modesto Junior College, then San Francisco State University, where they were roommates in 1997. That was when the musical really took shape.
Rogue and Jeff soon realized they had written enough songs to tell the entire Star Wars trilogy, and began to fill in holes, take out goofier songs, and embellish the script. Their goal with each song was to find a counterpart in musical theater that matched in tone and intent, but was then tweaked to follow the plot of Star Wars. They were struck by how some songs could be ridiculous, while others touching. Also, that Star Wars and musicals weren't quite as different of worlds as they had thought. That year, the Star Wars Special Edition films were released in theaters (where they got the name, Musical Edition), and they worked on songs while standing in line all night for tickets and instead of going to class. The plan was for a three-act, three-hour musical, and they finally completed a draft in early 1998.
That summer Jeff got married and moved to Cincinnati. At that point, the musical was just a pipe dream, and despite Rogue's big ideas, neither of them thought the show would ever be performed.
A Star Wars is Born
In the summer of 2000, Rogue moved to Boston to be with Caitlin, now his wife, who attended MIT. They both became involved with the MIT Musical Theatre Guild. MTG heard about the musical and wanted to produce it. The entire three-act musical would be too much, so they decided to do just the first act as a full two-hour production. Rogue and Jeff added several songs and fleshed out the script. Through MTG, Rogue found Stephen Peters, who has masterfully arranged the music. Steve complimented Rogue and Jeff's vision and has added immeasurably to the production. He has really made the show sing, so to speak, much as John Williams really made the films work. On January 31, 2003, MTG produced Star Wars: Musical Edition, directed by Rogue. The elaborate costumes and sets were dead-on yet whimsical, and the reaction was overwhelming.
A DVD of the performance found its way into the hands of Mary Franklin, head of Fan Relations at Lucasfilm and a friend of Rogue. She invited Rogue, Jeff, and Steve to perform the show at Celebration III, the huge Star Wars convention, in April 2005. So they cut the show down to 90 minutes and fine-tuned the script. Most of the original MTG cast returned with some additions, including cameos by each of the creators. Much of the crew also carried over from the MIT production: Rogue directed again; Steve arranged and conducted the music; Jacqueline "Jax" Kirtley was the producer; and Mark Rousculp was the technical director. Once again, the reaction was overwhelming.
The good news is there is more to come. Everyone is hard at work completing the newest production. For November 2005, MTG is producing the original concept, a three-act musical of the Star Wars Trilogy: Musical Edition.