Theater Review: THE EMPIRE STRIPS BACK (Great Star Theater)

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by Chuck Louden on July 23, 2022

in Theater-San Francisco / Bay Area,Tours


Forget about Broadway or the latest Marvel Comic movie. The fun, hip and cool burlesque Star Wars parody — which isn’t just for fans of the franchise — is the show to see this summer live onstage in San Francisco.

No stranger to SF, Burlesque started in the nineteenth century and combines comedy, camp, and adult entertainment with a lot of sexual innuendo. The Empire Strips Back, created by Russell S. Beattie, was originally conceived in Sydney, Australia in 2011 and traveled all over the continent. In 2016, The Huffington Post wrote an article that went viral, the show started playing elsewhere, and the rest is history. The raucous and fun show may have originated Down Under, but it’s definitely a Fog City show.

As you would gather, this vaudeville uses many familiar props and puppets, along with American pop music, to support sexy dancers with hot bodies as they subtly strip in choreographed numbers: A female Luke Skywalker twerks to Nicki Minaj as she hoses off her shuttlecraft; Princess Leia gyrates in a bikini to Nine Inch Nails’ “Closer”; and sultry dancers swing their lightsabers accompanied by an amazingly scintillating light show. Expect sexy Stormtroopers, a Darth Vader that makes you want to join the dark side, and even a seductive Boba Fett. It’s mostly cheesecake, but male dancer Jin Kim moves like a gymnast and practically steals the show in a number with Chewbacca that is worth the price of admission.

The crowd is heavily hipster heterosexual, with couples and sci-fi nerds of all stripes, but this is for anyone who likes a party atmosphere, which never flags for hours of light-speed ribaldry, aided by emcee and Oakland-based comedy writer Eric Newton. The cocktails definitely helped get everyone riled up; by the second act, the screeching and yelling noticeably went up a few decibels. The 500-seat Great Star Theater is the only remaining theater in Chinatown and it was packed to the rafters with an enthusiastically pleased crowd. The show had a delayed opening due to an asteroid hit from the planet Covid, but the rebels have now landed safely.

The cast includes Terence Beckles, Alexandra Fitzgibbon, Kanie Sequoia Freeman, Abby Hazlett, Dian Sitip Meechai, Isa Musni, Eric Newton, Cecilia Qu’in, and Erin Vonder Haar.

photos by Kevin Berne

The Empire Strips Back
Foster Entertainment and Neil Gooding Productions
Great Star Theater, 636 Jackson St in San Francisco
scheduled to end on August 28, 2022
for tickets (starting at $39), visit Empire Strips Back

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