Putting the 'solo' in 'Han Solo': Charles Ross' One Man Star Wars show

May 2, 2016
Performed all over North America since its debut at the 2002 Fringe Festival, Charlie Ross’ “One Man Star Wars” show is still selling out theatres. For 70 minutes, Ross performs the three movies from the original “Star Wars” trilogy by himself. The production has even been endorsed by Lucasfilm, the film company founded by George Lucas, the creator of the “Star Wars” series.

I knew I was approaching the Bluma Appel Theatre, on Toronto’s Front Street (between Yonge Street and Church Street) as soon as I saw a group of Stormtroopers standing together and posing for pictures. Once inside, there were more people dressed as iconic “Star Wars” characters, with an area for audience members to take pictures with them. Instead of having the ushers handing out hard copy programmes, audience members scanned the barcode found on the back of every seat with their phones in order to access the digital version of the programme. The Bluma Appel Theatre holds approximately 850 audience members and Wednesday’s opening night show was sold out!

Wearing a plain black jumpsuit, Ross, who also wrote the performance, stepped out onto the empty stage and kicked off the show by re-enacting the signature opening crawl. Starting with “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” he had the audience laughing with his simple yet effective imitation of the classic opening scene.

Having performed this same show in over a hundred cities since 2002, Ross was comfortable on stage. The flow was natural and relaxed, a true indication of his passion and genuine interest in “Star Wars.”  Condensing the entire trilogy into 70 minutes is no simple feat! He appealed to everyone’s favourite elements of the film, with some spot-on impersonations of the characters, particularly R2-D2, C-3PO, Luke Skywalker and Admiral Ackbar. Ross moved quickly from scene to scene, which captivated the audience captivated. No one wanted to miss a beat. For the most part, the performance was easy to follow and understand, even having never seen the movies.

Ross imitating Princess Leia, using his hands to mimic her iconic hairstyle.

His performance has been compared to a young kid playing “Star Wars” in his backyard. That’s not far from the truth, except that Ross doesn’t use any toys (props) to tell his story. He does, however, flail his limbs as he jumps, runs and falls all over the stage, only using his own mouth to generate sound effects. The childish element of the performance might also have something to do with the fact that the actor says he watched the trilogy over 400 times in his youth.

On that note, “Star Wars” experts (or at least people with a slight familiarity with the series) will definitely get the most out of the performance. Embarrassingly, I must admit that I have only seen “Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” so I couldn’t fully appreciate some of the characters’ signature one-liners, or the way in which Ross “fast-forwarded” through certain scenes and emphasized others. In between the enactment of the first and second movies, Ross asked the audience to clap if they had never seen the “Star Wars.” Luckily, I wasn’t the only audience member applauding. Ross was very aware of his audience, which included everyone from “age 6 to Yoda.” He had the entire theatre laughing as he incorporated witty humour and conversation that got a rise out of spectators, even if it wasn’t directly related to “Star Wars.” With incomparable stamina, Ross maintained his vigour for the entire 70-minute show, doing justice to every episode of the trilogy and hardly breaking a sweat!

Ross during a performance of "One Man Star Wars"

The performance received a full house of standing ovation. This one-man-show was a unique experience and the audience was obviously impressed. “Star Wars” is a long-time favourite, and to see someone’s passion for the series translated into creative work and presented to a room full of fans made the show’s atmosphere that special. Charlie Ross’ performance takes something that is familiar and at the heart of many generations of Canadians, and makes it his own, while honouring the reasons why “Star Wars” is so significant.

Ross’ show travels throughout North America. For more information on the show, performance dates and venues, visit onemanstarwars.com.

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