When I first heard that StarKid Productions would be releasing a Star Wars-themed parody, I was very anxious to see how they would handle it. The Chicago-based theater company originally won me over with their brilliant Harry Potter musicals, so the idea of them doing something similar with Star Wars was very intriguing.
The plot of ANI: A Parody revolves around Darth Vader, aka Ani, who has grown tired of his dull, monotonous life. Longing for a return to “the good old days,” Ani attempts to make the greatest comeback the galaxy has ever seen by returning to Tatooine to compete in the latest edition of the Boonta Eve Classic! Accompanying him on his journey is Tarkin, who himself is caught between wanting the title of Grand Moff, and the attention of his crush, a Stormtrooper named Emily; Mara Jade, the Emperor’s newest apprentice who secretly dreams of becoming a slave dancer for Jabba the Hutt; and Jar Jar, aka J.J., who wants nothing else but someone to call a friend.
Like any StarKid show, the cast are the biggest highlights. Chris Allen plays the lead role of Ani, and while he does a nice job with the script that he was given, his performance was slightly flat at times. Joe Walker shines as a lovable Tarkin, and Brian Holden actually makes J.J.’s antics humorous and likable. Denise Donovan as Mara doesn’t get as much time to shine as some of the other characters, but when you do see her, what she does is terrific. My personal favorite was Nick Lang, who portrayed Emperor “Pappy” Palpatine as well as an alcoholic Obi-Wan Kenobi. Honestly, though, every cast member deserves some amount of praise for their performance.
ANI is dubbed a “non-musical musical,” in that rather than having the cast themselves sing on stage, a band on the side provides all of the sound and vocals while everyone else dances and acts to what they hear. This method is a first for a StarKid musical, and I won’t be surprised if it’s not used again. The music and lyrics, despite being wonderfully penned by TalkFine, don’t seem to be as effective off-stage as they probably would have been on-stage. One noteworthy number is an amusing song called “Haunted by the Kiss,” whose lyrics are hilariously comprised of actual lines that Anakin said to Padme in Attack of the Clones.
The production level of ANI is also a bit of a disappointment when compared to StarKid’s other offerings. The set design is lackluster, and some of the costumes come off as lazy. There are not too many props (the cast has to mime many of their actions), but thankfully, this isn’t as distracting as it could have been.
The script is not Nick & Matt Lang’s best and often spends too much time on Star Wars jokes and puns rather than advancing the story. However, in doing so, it gives ANI one of its greatest strengths, which is that it plays off the source material incredibly well. The jokes and puns that do occur, despite being bountiful, are very clever. There is even one moment where a drunk Obi-Wan sits down with Tarkin and Emily to have a discussion that basically points out the flaws and plot holes of the prequel trilogy for a good five or so minutes. Unfortunately, most of the better gags will likely go right over the head of casual Star Wars fans, as some of them reference minor things that will only be noticed by more a more engaged fan.
Therein lies the main problem of ANI: it fails to appeal to anyone who has never seen or is not very interested in Star Wars. Whereas something like A Very Potter Musical could be entertaining to even the most casual Harry Potter fan, ANI is the complete opposite. Regardless, the audience that ANI does attract will most likely enjoy it.
Overall, ANI: A Parody is a gratifying piece of Star Wars satire. Even though it is not the best production that StarKid has released, it pays tribute to the saga immensely well, and is a fun two-hour piece that even non-musical loving Star Wars fans could find pleasure in. If you’re a fan and need a way to pass the time, ANI: A Parody surely is a unique way to do so.
ANI: A Parody is available to view in its entirety for free on YouTube!
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