“I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard at a musical,” says Alessondra Springmann SM ’11. “My favorite part was the tap-dancing Stormtroopers.”
The play, a production of the MIT Musical Theater Guild (MITG), combined science fiction with Broadway theatrics and played to sold-out shows on MIT campus in November 2005. More than 75 students, friends, and alumni were involved in the play, which was featured in the Boston Globe, Boston Phoenix, and SlashDot.
“I thought I was a Star Wars fan,” says Dawn Erickson ’07. “Then I came to MIT and learned what being a Star Wars fan really meant. There was an unbelievable amount of detail—it was like we’d been doing research for this our whole lives.”
Erickson played Admiarl Ozzel, bounty hunter Dengar, a Jawa, a Bespin guard, and even an MIT Quidditch player in the musical, which was arguably the Musical Theater Guild's most popular production.
“I'd done a lot of shows with the theater guild before, but there was never anything remotely like Star Wars,” says Erickson. “It was an ambitious show—we still can't believe we made it happen. We tapped out every possible resource and person.”
The nine-show run featured an elaborate set, including a fold-out Millennium Falcon, wearable X-wings, and detailed costumes of Wookies, Ewoks, R2D2, and Jabba the Hut. The play parodied songs from musicals, including “Don’t Cry for Me Princess Leia,” a mock homage to the rock opera Evita.
“The music was an absolute delight,” says Stephen Peters ’92, SM ’92, PhD ’06, the show’s musical director. “The orchestra members were marvelous. We had these huge medleys that mixed John Williams tunes with songs from Phantom of the Opera, Les Misérables, and West Side Story.”
The 2005 production was a byproduct of an earlier MIT musical that told the story of the first Star Wars and took place during IAP 2003. That musical was the brainchild of MTG members Jeff Seuss and Rogue Shindler, husband of Caitlin Shindler ’03, who brought the idea to the guild.
“It wasn’t a hard to convince a bunch of MIT students to do a musical based on Star Wars,” says Peters, who participated in the ’03 show. “And then when people heard that we were doing a musical trilogy, there was a fair amount of buzz.”
The Star Wars Trilogy: Musical Edition was so successful that it expanded off campus and was performed across the country, including the 2005 Star Wars Celebration in Indianapolis and the opening of "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" at the Boston Museum of Science, where Star Wars creator George Lucas watched from the first row.
“I was in my Bespin guard costume, dancing directly in front of George Lucas, making eye contact with every box step and jazz hand,” Erickson says. “On some level, I still don’t believe that night really happened.”
So does the onset of a new trilogy mean a new musical as well? Maybe, but it would have to include a new cast.
“I don’t know if you’d be able to get the same group of people together,” says Mary Linton Peters ’92, who ran the box office. “It’s probably time for a new group, but we’d be happy to pass the torch.”
Special thank you to Matt Ciborowski '08, MCP '09; Dawn Erickson ’07; Alexis Dale Paez '09; Mary Linton Peters ’92; Stephen Peters ’92, SM ’92, PhD ’06; Robin Radez '06; Alessondra Springmann SM ’11; and many other MIT alumni who contributed to this story.