“Star Wars” parodies are timely these days, and Murray’s Desert Star Playhouse, that workhorse of good-natured ribbing, has slapped together a fluffy piece as amusing as any of them.
“Space Wars 1999: May the New Farce be with You” reuses a title from a DSP show of 1997, although the similarities end there. The older show was a parody of all science-fiction/space stories, with focus on a pre-scandal Salt Lake Olympics. The new one is strictly a parody of the first “Star Wars” film, though a few references to the new movie pop up here and there, too.
Luke Warmwater (Ed Farnsworth) is a sand farmer with a pet robot named Y2K2. Princess Ginger Spice Oregano (Trisha Ann Braunberger) — so named just because the Desert Star likes to throw in Spice Girl jokes whenever it can (and hey, who doesn’t?) — hides a computer disk in Y2K2 while fleeing the evil Empress (Chelsi Stahr), Garth Vulgar (Matthew Scott Nielsen) and their henchperson Billie Gates (Julie Ann Christensen).
This gets Luke wrapped up in the whole thing, and he solicits help from Odie Don Quixote (Scott Holman; played by Jack Drayton the night of this review), an old Jedi who carries a Yoda-esque puppet around with him everywhere. They hire Yon Soso (Steven Fehr) and his hairy pal Chewaua (Ricky Jason) to help them rescue the princess, there are light saber battles, and lots of people wind up falling in love.
This is a lightweight, harmless parody. There are only a few great jokes, though the Desert Star’s ever-popular chase scene format is intact, and the performances are good all the way around. Chewaua (pronounced “Chihuahua”) has a great musical solo, and there is plenty of good visual humor.
Ultimately, making fun of “Star Wars” is like hitting the broad side of a barn. This show hits the target, but not with as much “force” (pardon me) as we’re used to seeing at Desert Star.
What is impressive is the number of jokes stolen from other sources. There’s a line and even a song lifted from “The Simpsons,” and the “Star Wars Cantina” song takes most of its lyrics from a “Copacabana” parody that’s been circulating on the Internet the last several months. The Desert Star is quite capable of creating its own humor without stealing from others, and in a show that turns out to fairly average anyway, the theft here almost seems desperate.
Fans of the Desert Star (of which I am one) will not be too disappointed in the show, though it’s not nearly as memorable as we like them to be. First-timers should be reminded that it’s usually a little funnier, a little sillier and a little more inventive than this.
I am always disappointed when I see the Desert Star stealing its jokes. It's one thing to make a reference to something, knowing the audience will recognize its source. It's quite another thing to include a line from another show and expect the audience to think YOU came up with it. That was clearly the case with all of the theft here.
For the record, here are the things stolen:
From "The Simpsons": "What are you going to do, send the dogs after me, or the bees, or the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark, bees come out?" (Homer, being chased away from Mr. Burns's house.)
From "The Simpsons": The song "Luke, be a Jedi Tonight." From a 1999 episode in which Mark Hamill -- the original Luke Skywalker -- comes to Springfield to appear in a local production of "Guys and Dolls." The director makes him dress up like Luke Skywalker, though, and has him sing this song, to the tune of "Luck, be a Lady Tonight." Desert Star added many of its own lines, but the basic idea was stolen.
The "Star Wars Cantina" song, to the tune of "Copacabana," was written by Mark Jonathan Davis. The lyrics have been circulating around the Internet for a couple years, and the song was popular among wacky morning radio DJs all over the country. Again, Desert Star added some lines, but the chorus and the concept were the same.
I should mention that our pal Joel, who, with Chris and Lisa Clark, had been part of the group that I attended the Desert Star Playhouse with, went to Taiwan for the second half of 1999. This was the first show we saw after his departure, and it was kind of strange. His replacement was Colleen Baum, a Provo actress who is very funny and whom we were all good friends with. She filled the spot -- a very coveted spot among our friends, I might add -- just fabulously.