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How To Celebrate ‘Star Wars’ Day in a Jewish Way

Musical team Strouse and Adams wrote songs for a ‘Star Wars’ musical that never happened. It doesn’t sound pretty.

Gabriela Geselowitz
May 04, 2015
(Harrison Ford in Star Wars )
(Harrison Ford in Star Wars )

You might already know that today, May 4 is Star Wars Day! So, “May the Fourth Be With You.”

What makes this year’s observance so special is that nerds everywhere actually have something new to celebrate: the upcoming release of The Force Awakens, the new Star Wars film, this December. And as we nerds eagerly and/or warily await the film’s release, we can feast our eyes on a some tantalizing new images taken by photography superstar Annie Leibovitz from the set.

Which got me thinking: How best can Jews celebrate this auspicious Star Wars Day? By listening to melodies from the Star Wars musical that never was.

And I don’t mean Bill Murray’s famous SNL lounge number; I mean a show that could have been a Broadway hopeful, written by none other than the Jewish musical team Charles Strouse and Lee Adams.

While Strouse and Adams are most famous for Annie and Bye Bye Birdie, the duo has produced lots of other work as well, some of it Semitic. For example, Strouse and lyricist Stephen Schwartz wrote Rags, which details the experiences of Jews on the Lower East Side (the show opened and closed in quick succession in 1986). And prior to that, in 1966, Strouse and Adams penned It’s a Bird…It’s a Plane…It’s Superman, and we all know of Supes’ Jewish roots and formidable superhuman prowess.

Perhaps it was this campy, geeky adaptation that inspired George Lucas, creator of the Star Wars franchise. According to Strouse, Lucas approached the writing duo years later to turn his franchise into a musical, but it never materialized. In an interview from 2008, Strouse described the fallout:

We were asked to do it by the original producer, George Lucas. First of all, we were given a 90-page contract with his company, and my lawyer discovered a phrase in there which gave Lucas the right to say, “I don’t want to go on,” so we pulled out, but Lucas gave us extra money–I remember the sum, it was $10,000–to sign. And so we wrote around five songs, when indeed he did call the contract. He never heard the songs, as far as I know. He decided he was going to do the sequels instead.

Luckily for us, at least two demos (both were recorded in 1999) remain available on YouTube.

First, take a listen to “Han’s Your Man,” in which we get to know the franchise’s resident scruffy-looking rogue Han Solo. Theater blogger David Levy first brought this story to my attention and confirmed that orchestrating this recording is none other than Jewish musical songwriter Jason Robert Brown. (There’s no word whether or not Leia will reprise the number as “Han’s My Man,” perhaps à la Fanny Brice.)

[Update: Brown later took to Twitter and dropped some crucial knowledge: “First of all, there are more than five songs, and second of all, I have them.” We can hope he’ll be generous and share them someday. Maybe R2D2 has a song entirely in beeps.]

Strouse and Adams also wrote “My Star,” which was meant to be sung by Princess Leia. This track is slightly less painful to listen to than the “Han” song, but far is more generic—so much so, that Strouse and Adams were able to recycle the song and include it in their subsequent musical adaptation of Paddy Chayefsky’s Marty, which also never made it to the Great White Way.

Gabriela Geselowitz is a writer and the former editor of