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“Tom Gun Live: A Maverick’s Homage” entices Tom Cruise lovers through parody

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"Tom Gun LIVE: A Maverick's Homage" opened at the San Diego Music Box August 27.

Courtesy of Christopher Buttner

Courtesy of Christopher Buttner

"Tom Gun LIVE: A Maverick's Homage" opened at the San Diego Music Box August 27.

by Danny Dyer, Staff Writer

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He’s a star-spangled movie icon, and now he has his own play.

“Tom Gun LIVE: A Maverick’s Homage,” is a spin-off stage parody of the 1980’s original action flick “Top Gun.”

The play is a wacky celebration of Tom Cruise’s best, and perhaps worst, cinematic hits.

“Tom Gun LIVE: A Maverick’s Homage” opened at the San Diego Music Box August 27.

The premise is simple enough: the Cruise character explains via Skype that he is running late for the show, and until he arrives someone needs to fill his role as Maverick, the all-macho protagonist of the play.

“Look, I’m in a car and I’m on my way,” the Cruise character said, face projected on the backdrop of the stage. “In the meantime, who better to take my place then my biggest fans?”

As Thomas Blake, host of the event and creator of the show, goofily fumbles around stage within its opening minutes, the audience is elbowed out of the role of spectator and propelled into the show itself.

Eager hands rose as Blake sifted through the crowd to select potential Maverick candidates.

After conducting the Tom Cruise test, a test that included audience members singing their favorite songs from “Top Gun” and giving their best Cruise impersonation, the new Maverick was chosen.

With that, the start of the show began.

Blake’s spin-off lunges over the one hurdle that most other spoofs can’t seem to leap. He balances his zany satire with the film’s original substance, never reclining too far on one or the other.

“Tom Gun LIVE: A Maverick’s Homage” remains rooted in the over-the-top charm that its predecessor is so known for, but also stretches to new laughs with its slap-stick mockery and crowd involvement.

From Mitch Eakins’ portrayal as the lovable co-star, Goose, to Joya Italiano’s overly sexualized Carole, it’s almost as if the play is a self-aware caricature, jabbing fun at its ridiculousness just as much as it is enjoying it.

“What I tell my actors is to act like you’re a 12-year-old kid and your favorite movie is Top Gun, and you want to put it on with your buddies in the backyard,” Blake said.

This child-like approach translated to the stage with triumphant amusement.

Every aircraft skirmish included a riot of paper airplanes whizzing above the theater seats as Goose and Maverick sprinted from aisle to aisle with comically small inflatable airplanes coiled around their necks.

The timeless volleyball scene was lampooned with a gut-busting accuracy, shirtless slow-motion in all.

To up the Tom Cruise-ante, scattered between each act of the performance were micro-plays that captured memorable scenes from other Cruise classics like “Cocktail,” “Dirty Dancing” and “Tropic Thunder.”

“I thought they did a great job with showing just how fun Tom Cruise movies can be,” kinesiology senior Matthew Manetti said. “Now I just want to go watch some of his films again.”

As of now, Blake aims to wrap up a west coast tour of the production in San Francisco, but still has grander goals for his newest creation.

“If it’s a possibility, I might get an Atlanta-based cast going on and maybe have them go to New Orleans, Atlanta and do that whole area,” Blake said.

If the stars align, “Tom Gun LIVE: A Maverick’s Homage” will eventually traverse the entire country, something that no Tom Cruise fan would dare to miss.

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