I first became aware of Team StarKid a few years back when they released Holy Musical, B@man! a parody featuring the song and dance adventures of the Dark Knight. After watching it, I knew that the group had also produced A Very Potter Musical, but I never watched it. This past weekend, after my fiancée found that out, she decided we should watch it together, which we did, and I’ll admit, I enjoyed it and laughed quite a bit. However, following that YouTube viewing, another of their productions popped up for possible viewing – ANI: A Parody. That’s right, a Star Wars musical parody about Darth Vader.
My fiancée wasn’t really interested in watching it, but it is something that was Star Wars-themed, so I figured I’d take a look. She was at work, I was off for the day, so I loaded up the two hour production on YouTube and gave it a shot.
The premise is pretty simple: Vader, who insists his friends call him Ani, is past his prime. His glory days as a podracer are behind him, and he’s been stationed on the Death Star by the Emperor (who insists on being referred to as Pappy), with seemingly no purpose. He tries to make friends but is something of a joke to the Death Star’s staff. When he fears he is being replaced by Mara Jade, he decides to give podracing one last chance in an effort to prove his self-worth.
I was genuinely surprised by the musical. After viewing A Very Potter Musical, I was expecting something that was more akin to a straight spoof of Star Wars. What I got was a show that had as much in common with John Hughes and Rocky movies from the 1980s as it did with our favorite space saga.
Chris Allen as Ani is doing his best John Candy as the grating yet lovable lead. His character is that guy that no one really likes, but everyone feels bad for and keeps around because they feel sorry for him. Allen’s presence is strong enough to carry the show, but luckily he doesn’t have to. Joseph Walker’s Moff Jeffrey Tarkin and Denise Donovan’s Mara Jade provide great anchors to Allen’s larger-than-life persona, while each having their own comical subplot (Tarkin is in love with a female Stormtrooper and Mara wants to be a slave dancer in Jabba’s palace).
While that trio does a lot of the heavy-lifting, there are some other great supporting performances. Nick Lang (who co-wrote with his brother and director, Matt Lang) pulls double duty onstage as both Pappy and Obi-Wan, and he is hysterical in each role. Brian Holden gives Jar Jar Binks a surprising amount of pathos while at the same time remaining true to the spirit of his cinematic counterpart.
The script, for the most part, is excellent. There were a few too many digs at the Prequels for my liking, but the story draws as much from Episodes I-III as it does the Original Trilogy, which reveals an underlying love for the saga as a whole. Plus with the nod to the Expanded Universe in the character of Mara Jade and a surprising reference to The Clone Wars animated series, it was easy to forgive the production for their small amount of Prequel cynicism.
While the first twenty minutes were a little slow and took a bit to get going, once the show gets into its groove, it was a fairly enjoyable ride of expert direction and staging, great performances, nods to ‘80s flicks, and Star Wars jokes galore. I enjoyed it and can’t wait to experience it with some of my other Star Wars-loving friends.