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Star Wars: A Musical Journey at 02 Arena -- Concert Review

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LONDON -- If you think the world doesn't need another variation on "Star Wars" on top of the six films, assorted animations, video games and toys, you are forgetting the extraordinary force of the music John Williams wrote for the science-fiction epic.

"Star Wars: A Musical Journey," which was presented Friday at London's 02 Arena for the first time, features two hours of the wonderfully varied themes and cues that Williams has rearranged to accompany a series of sequences from the six moves especially edited for the production by Lucasfilm.

Williams has won five Academy Awards, including one for his original music for the first "Star Wars" film in 1977, and the extraordinarily rich texture of his scores for the sequels that followed demonstrate his remarkable talent. He recorded the scores with the London Symphony Orchestra, but that ensemble could not commit to the new production's planned tour. The LSO's pre-eminence, especially in its brass section, was on display in London's Barbican Hall on April 4 in a splendid concert titled "A Life in Film" that featured several Williams pieces.

Still, the 86-piece Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Choir did a fine job on the night, helped considerably by the electrifying Belgian conductor Dirk Brosse, whose skill with film scores is demonstrated each year at the World Soundtrack Awards held during the Ghent Film Festival.

Brosse led the orchestra and singers confidently as they performed the sumptuous music scrupulously calibrated to synchronize with a spectacular range of images featuring all the characters, human and otherwise, and many of the iconic set pieces from the films.

Anthony Daniels, who played the robot C3PO in all six pictures, played host and, appearing very debonair in a dinner jacket, delivered an entertaining narrative written by Jamie Richardson to introduce each segment.

Lucasfilm edited the sequences so that the story of Anakin and Luke Skywalker was shown more or less in chronological order, but each one had a theme ranging from love scenes to martial arts to giant battles.

The images were presented in stunning high-definition on a vast $4 million screen set up for the occasion. Cutting occasionally to shots of the orchestra, the screen was busy with the action and adventure that have made the films so popular. Mention of Darth Vader brought the biggest cheer of the night, but Han Solo and Yoda also received huge ovations.

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

The show's California-based producers Another Planet Entertainment had planned a one-night engagement, but it sold so well that another performance was added Saturday, and it is headed for North America and Australia.

Venue: 02 Arena, London (Friday, April 10)