'You'd have to be dead not to enjoy it."
Those are the words of C3PO, the fastidious, Brit-accented android from the Star Wars movies.
Actually, they are the words of Anthony Daniels, the actor who plays C3PO.
He's describing his "overwhelming, totally sincere enthusiasm" over his role as emcee and narrator in Star Wars in Concert, a multimedia event coming to Philadelphia on Nov. 15 at the Wachovia Center. It's a family-loving multimedia affair, reimagining the entire Star Wars saga.
It's now a 90-minute extravaganza, with an 86-piece orchestra performing a mix of John Williams' scores for the films in front of a 100-foot LED screen showing scenes, themes (love, redemption, etc.), plot sequences, and character arcs. You can follow Obi Wan Kenobi from his early mentorship of Anakin Skywalker to their crucial light-saber battle later, when the latter has degenerated into Darth Vader.
And the entire laser-streaked, crashing-cymbals, living-color show is hosted by Daniels, who describes himself as "possibly the biggest Star Wars fan of all."
"It's awfully great fun," says Daniels (who sounds exactly like C3PO). "It's for knowledgeable Star Wars fans, families on an outing, people who want to know the films or the stories better, or just plain music lovers."
(According to the show, its chief appeal is to families with children and to men 25 to 54 - you know who you are.)
Laser-light shows, Star Wars-themed concerts, and the like have been legion in the 33 years since the first (now counted as the fourth) Star Wars film appeared in 1977. But not the concert, made and approved by its originators - director George Lucas and his company Lucasfilm Ltd.
Howard Roffman, a veteran at sister company Lucas Licensing and overseer of this project, says, "The original idea arose when we were doing the sound track for Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith in 2005. We loved the idea, but it got sidetracked with the release of the film."
But then Another Planet, a promotional firm in San Francisco, approached Lucasfilm with the same idea, and, in Roffman's words, "we leaped at the chance."
Both Daniels and Roffman say Williams was the central figure, his music the centerpiece of the show. "Watching the concert," Daniels says, "you realize that the music is as central a character as anyone else in the films."
Williams famously crafted individual themes for the major characters, thematic moments, and turning points. "So for this project, John selected 16 pieces that give you the entire arc of the story, told from Episode I to Episode VI," Roffman says. "He takes you on a journey through the story via the music. And then we cut completely new videos, arranging sequences from the films according to the music."
And what is that story? Daniels answers: "It's about this cute little boy who became bad, but who had two children, a boy and a girl, who came back and rescued his soul.
"The way the films are intercut reveals undreamed-of connections among the films," he says. "Something in the fourth film flashes back to something in the first film."
Lucasfilm approached Daniels - whose C3PO says the first line in the first Star Wars film (1977) and the last line in the last one (2005) - to emcee and narrate.
"At first," he says, with a chuckle, "I was against it because I felt Williams' music doesn't need special effects. But in the end, they were right. It really is splendid as an orchestral piece in its own right, and with the giant screen, and live cameras showing you the orchestra in performance, it's quite indescribable."
Daniels, at 63, is getting the real rock-star-on-the-road treatment. "I'm getting too old for this," he says, "but I do love my huge tour bus, complete with sitting room, kitchen, and TV. I was in a truck stop in Alabama the other night. I'd never been in a truck stop. The people there were just so nice."
As emcee, Daniels will be wearing a festive tux, not the "rather uncomfortable" gold suit he put on for the films and for a lot of projects else. "But it's in an exhibit of Star Wars memorabilia in the lobby as you come in," he says, "with original props, sheet music, and photographic background."
The suit he doesn't miss: "Playing C3PO in that suit was literally a pain. But now, thanks to this show, I can, if you will, enjoy his fame, after all this time, without having to dress up."