In the St. John’s Arts and Culture Centre, not far, far away, the Newfoundland Symphony Orchestra (NSO) put on a spectacular finale for its 2017/2018 season.
The show, “Spring Pops: Final Frontier” attracted folks of all ages and all backgrounds to the auditorium for this fundraising event.
The NSO’s theme for the night was based on the enchanting music found in science fiction television shows and films. Its carefully curated selections appealed to many generations of sci-fi fans, from those who witnessed the birth of the genre, on through the Golden Age, and the New Wave of sci-fi, continuing on to the genre’s present-day contemporary offerings.
Dressed as Tommy Lee Jones in “Men In Black,” NSO CEO Hugh Donnan welcomed the costumed crowd of “men, women, Klingons, and Andorians” to the sold-out show. Donnan gestured to a balcony, welcoming a “visitor from a galaxy far, far away” — Darth Vader, attending with a trusty Storm Trooper.
After a witty word from their sponsor, the show began with a rousing round of applause for conductor/music director Marc David, and first violinist/concertmaster Heather Kao.
Local storyteller Dale Jarvis took to the podium, and as our captain for the night, he guided the audience through this aural journey, providing commentary on the pieces the NSO was about to perform.
Starting out with “Zarathustra” from “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the epic opening song was followed by a medley of Star Trek theme songs from the many incarnations of the series, spanning more than 50 years. Next, we heard the theme from “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” a John Williams classic.
I was transfixed by bassist Frank Fusari’s impressive theremin skills, then mesmerized by the projected visual accompaniments. The talented musicianship with each tune executed flawlessly almost made me forget I was at a live show, and not a movie theatre.
The audience was taken on a symphonic adventure with music from “Back to the Future,” “Doctor Who,” and “E.T.” No detail was spared; a young boy in a red hoodie walked a bike with a covered basket across the stage during “Adventures on Earth,” a nod to the famous “ride in the sky” E.T. scene.
During the intermission, the crowd enjoyed a costume contest, sipping “imported” Romulan Ale on the concourse.
Returning to the theatre for the second act, the NSO held its costume contest, the big prize going to a young child dressed as Kylo Ren from Star Wars.
The first selection in the second half was “Space,” a medley of tunes from “Space 1999,” “UFO,” “Stargate SG-1,” “Buck Rogers,” and “Battlestar Gallactica.”
The theme song of 1980 sci-fi romantic drama “Somewhere in Time” followed, leading us to the evening’s final offering.
A mélange of John Williams pieces, the “Star Wars Suite” consisted of five themes from the famed movie series. During “The Imperial March,” conductor Marc David pledged allegiance to the Dark Lord of the Sith, donning a Darth Vader mask for the entirety of the performance.
I left the ACC feeling the same way I usually do when I witness something extraordinary on a St. John’s stage: a sense of wonder, a pang of jealousy (the talent! So much talent!) and the knowing feeling that — as one legendary sci-fi character says — “I’ll be back.”
Reviewer’s note: I tried to get my usual balcony seat — decent for pictures — but couldn't because Darth Vader was sitting in it —for real.