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  • Maddie LaBerge

A Sexy Night Out on the Town: The Empire Strips Back

When my co-worker cautiously approached me and asked if I had ever been to a burlesque show, I will admit, I was nervous where the conversation was going. She followed up by asking if I was a Star Wars fan, which again, had me nervous on where the conversation was going. But when she explained that for the month of September there was a parody burlesque show called The Empire Strips Back showing at the Herberger Theatre in Downtown Phoenix, my jaw dropped. I'd always wanted to go to a burlesque show and figured now was a good time as ever.

Empire Strips Back Banner

My boyfriend, Max, has been a Star Wars fan for his whole life and I figured this would be a very fun surprise for the both of us! I checked with him on dates and times and then bought two tickets in the orchestra for Thursday evening.

I did a great job of keeping it a secret, until the last second. Max was pestering me, trying to guess where we were going and what we'd be doing. I let him know I would have to borrow one of his T-shirts and apparently, right after he saw an ad for The Empire Strips Back on YouTube and the jig was up. I still tried to pretend as though I didn't know what he was talking about... but I did need to borrow a Star Wars shirt, so I was found out.

In our Empire Strips Back seats!

He was pretty excited for the experience, as he had never seen a burlesque show either.

Pro Tip: Leave 15 minutes earlier than you think you should.

After circling the theatre and the general downtown Phoenix area for about 10 minutes, I caved and parked in the Chase building's parking garage. For the length of the show, I paid $13, which isn't the worst but I wish I had been able to find cheaper street parking. My suggestion is to leave 15 minutes earlier than you think you should, or even better – find street parking early and enjoy dinner downtown.

We entered the grand lobby of the theatre, which was adorned with a large merch stand featuring Wookierotica magazines (Volume I & II), Saber (the all men calendar), Chewbacca underpants, posters and T-shirts. We ended up buying the Wookierotica Volume I, which featured a "She-Wok" centerfold. This started the night off with giggles and full blown belly laughs as we thumbed through our copy.

The Empire Strips Back magazine

We filed into the theater, took our seats in row "N" (great seats for mid-tier pricing!) and got comfortable. The show started a little early for us, as the man two rows in front of us got up to purchase a drink and much to our and his surprise, had half of his butt out from his sagging pants. Max and I could not control our laughter and we are still laughing a week after the fact.

Pricing changes by day and time. Since we went on a Thursday, Zone B tickets were $62 each. Other pricing and a link to book are at the end of this blog!

Curtains before the Empire Strips Back

Then the curtains opened and the show began. I will not spoil every act, because the surprise of each character and scene was truly part of the overall experience, but you really start off on a high note as a Rebel Alliance soldier comes on stage riding a full sized Tauntaun. And then the burlesque begins.

Did I ever really think that sexy and Star Wars ever mixed? Aside from Hayden Christensen as Anakin and the chained Princess Leia scene... not really. But, damn. Every creature in the galaxy really put their whole Wook-ussy into the show!

My favorite acts included Han Solo & Chewbacca, C-3PO, R2D2 and the Imperial Guard. There is an emphasis on parody and comedy, with modern music juxtaposing the 1970s source material. There are a few surprise characters you probably wouldn't expect to see in a burlesque show but will have you howling at the absurdity.

A highlight of the night was our host, Charlie Wilson – a self-proclaimed nephew of Lando Calrissian and real-life comedian, writer and host. His ability to riff off the crowd's energy and call outs led to an effortless flow of show, while the sets were changed behind the closed curtain. He built up the audience's energy, celebrated the birthdays and anniversaries in the house and had a butt-load (buh-dum-tiss) of Star Wars jokes and one liners.

After the brief 15-minute intermission where the audience had a few additional cups of Jawa Juice, the performance really upped the ante. Here are a couple no-context spoilers:

  • 5+ foot disco ball

  • R2 D2 scream

  • What's hiding under that robe?

Truly, my only complaint is that JarJar Binks did not make an appearance. As a Star Wars cynic, this truly would have been the best surprise. Charlie even asked who we wanted to see and when the audience started shouting out JarJar he told us that there was not a single chance that he would be making an appearance, much to my chagrin.

The roughly 2 hour and 15 minute show was really incredible and the perfect date night, special occasion event or solo night out on the town! I highly recommend making the drive downtown. You will leave with sore abs from laughing the whole way through, a smile on your face and maybe a nudie mag or two.

Phoenix Ticket Prices:

Wednesday & Thursday:

Zone A: $79

Zone B-: $62

Zone C: $47

Imperial Package: includes express entry to the experience + a t-shirt

Zone A: $114

Zone B-: $97

Zone C: $82

Friday - Sunday:

Zone A: $69-$89

Zone B-: $54-$69

Zone C: $39-$54

Imperial Package: includes express entry to the experience + a t-shirt

Zone A: $104-$124

Zone B-: $89-$104

Zone C: $74-$89


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