Classically Trained: The Force is strong with younglings

When Boba Fett tells you to turn your cell phone off, you turn your cell phone off.

The bounty hunter responsible for the capture of heroic smuggler Han Solo was just one of many creatures visiting Costa Mesa on Saturday from a far-away galaxy. Fett went down the aisle silently glaring at many excited attendees to turn off their electronic devices so as not to disturb the children onstage about to perform "Star Wars: Return of the Jedi" at Vanguard University.

The musical parody production, put on by the Arts & Learning Conservatory, was a galaxy-wide fundraiser for the nonprofit dedicated to children's arts education. A few rugged rebels, Ewoks and aliens — as expected — brought down the Emperor, his second Death Star and his evil empire that night.

But what's intergalactic civil war without some music to carry it along? With the help of John Williams' notes and a small pit orchestra of strings, a few woodwinds and a tuba, conductor Jeremy DelaCuadra (sporting a Jedi-inspired cape) led the group of musicians ages 10 to 17 through interludes between scenes.

The kids looked like they were having a lot of fun onstage, tapping into the creative mind of George Lucas with original movie quotes, dance numbers and inspired new numbers.

Some well-chosen borrowing included tunes taken from an operatic phantom with new lyrics, namely "Music of the Dying Knight" (the knight being Yoda, played by alive-and-well 11-year-old Calvin Proctor) and "The Phantom of the Empire," with Darth Vader (Curtis McMackin, 13) and the Phantom Singer (Catherine Reynolds, 11).

There were even a few well-placed jokes, namely the reference to forcibly watching the infamous 1978 "Star Wars Holiday Special" as punishment inside the sarlacc's stomach within the Great Pit of Carkoon.

I imagine there are few better ways to get kids interested in theater, acting and music than a means like "Star Wars," one of the most influential films of all time. It certainly had a Force as strong as Luke Skywalker upon me when I first watched it in second grade on a former VHS rental tape. It still does.

Here's hoping, with the help of the money raised, that the Force stays strong with those kids!

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. E-mail him story ideas at

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