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A Pair Of Geeky Fringe Festival Musicals Get Restaged During Comic-Con

Turning Tydes serves up ‘The Phantom of the Empire’ and ‘Les Midge’

The cast of Turning Tydes'

Photo by Beth Accomando

Above: The cast of Turning Tydes' "The Phantom of the Empire," a musical mash-up of the Star Wars Trilogy and "The Phantom of the Opera," June 26, 2016.

A long time ago in a galaxy known as MGM, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland used to rally a ragtag crew of neighborhood kids to put on a show. That spirit also fuels a youthful theatre company called Turning Tydes, which serves up a pair of geeky, do-it-yourself musical mash-ups that will run during Comic-Con.

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A long time ago in a galaxy known as MGM, Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland used to rally a ragtag crew of neighborhood kids to put on a show. That spirit also fuels a youthful theater company called Turning Tydes, which serves up a pair of geeky, do-it-yourself musical mash-ups that will run during Comic-Con.

The thing about being part of a ragtag rebel alliance mounting a geeky mash-up of "Star Wars" and "The Phantom of the Opera" is that you have to be resourceful.

The Evil Empire can keep building bigger and bigger Death Stars but Summer Blinco said Turning Tydes Theatre Company had limited funds for its ultimate weapon.

"We went through so many ideas for the Death Star. Do we make it a cardboard cut out, do we make it a ball on a string," Blinco said.

"It was a piñata at one point that we were going to break open with candy inside, but it takes so long to break it open," Jordan Hall Campbell said.

Unlike the Empire, director Campbell and lead writer Blinco couldn’t afford anything the size of a moon. So when they had to put the Death Star onstage as part of their musical mash-up "The Phantom of the Empire," Campbell said she took a do-it-yourself approach.

"If I had to make the show out of only things I have in my house, what would I use? OK, we need a Death Star. OK, we have an exercise ball, great, there we go," Campbell said.

Campbell is also the artistic director of Turning Tydes, which presents "The Phantom of the Empire" and "Les Midge: An Unexpected Journey of Hobbit Proportions" outside Comic-Con this week.

"Yeah, Judy and Mickey and Luke and Leia, the whole gang is here," James Hebert said. He writes for The San Diego Union-Tribune and is just one of the theater critics charmed by "The Phantom of the Empire."

"You sort of have to speed through all these points and all these characters. So it was clever in the way that the show just found its path through all that material, and oh my gosh, yeah, the Death Star," he said.

During rehearsal last week at an office building near Legoland, Campbell worked out the choreography of a group of TIE Fighters and X-wing Fighters that needed to fill the 50 seconds as everyone awaits the entrance of the Death Star.

And what an entrance it is!

Photo caption: The Death Star in Turning Tydes' "The Phantom of the Empire" is a ballerina i...

Photo by Beth Accomando

The Death Star in Turning Tydes' "The Phantom of the Empire" is a ballerina in an exercise ball, June 26, 2016.

"We went for the idea that had more movement. We wanted to make the Death Star a person that could actually die," Blinco said.

And not die in any ordinary manner.

Shane Ruddick Allen plays C3PO. He said they had to do justice to the climactic destruction of the Death Star. They did that by making the Death Star a ballerina in a silver exercise ball dancing on point and she goes down like the most flamboyant Odette of any "Swan Lake."

"I love what we did with the Death Star," Allen said. "With sort of 'Black Swan' style ballerina death because I love that it is an homage to 'The Phantom of the Opera' side of our show."

"Who thinks of something like that?" Kris Eitland asked.

Eitland is the theater critic at San Diego Story, an online publication covering the arts.

"The two things that they are actually mashing, they are able to juggle and balance enough of it so we recognize it but also overlay music with it which is, I don’t know if they realize how clever that is. And that they could sing so well. They really could sing," Eitland said. "I think it would be fun in any galaxy really."

Turning Tydes hopes the Force is strong enough in its show to draw Comic-Con attendees to their tiny rebel outpost, known in this galaxy as the Geoffrey Off Broadway.

"The Phantom of the Empire" and "Les Midge" run July 21 through 24. Tickets are available online.

Listen to more music from "The Phantom of the Empire" and "Les Midge" as Cinema Junkie Podcast Episode 84 takes you behind the scenes with the creative team of Turning Tydes.

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