If you haven’t seen Gypsy at Chicago Shakespeare Theater yet, I hope you’ll want to rush out and buy tickets after you read this review.
If you’ve already seen it, you may want to go back and see it again.
If I can even scratch the surface of the astonishing insights Charles Troy presents, you’ll want to see what you missed. Charles hasn’t missed anything. Here’s his backstory:
…He started devising his multimedia presentations on musical theatre subjects ten years ago when he decided someone should tell the amazing backstory of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s first show, “Oklahoma!” as the movie “Topsy Turvy” had done for Gilbert & Sullivan’s “The Mikado”. He enjoyed the experience so much that he wanted to create presentations on other great musicals as well. “But I was concerned,” Troy says. “Would other shows have backstories as interesting and dramatic? What I found was thrilling – all the shows have fascinating backstories, and every one of them is different!”
In researching these presentations,” Troy says, “I look for a unique narrative thread which will enable me to hang the story together. I pride myself on making dramatic presentations rather than lectures. And though my programs are completely visual, they’re not documentaries such as you would see on PBS either, which are structured as a succession of facts without a particular point of view, interspersed with clips of talking heads.” Instead, they’re visually seamless 90-minute programs with original graphics, scanned photos, edited audio tracks with the lyrics displayed onscreen, video clips, and thoroughly researched, scripted narratives that weave the pertinent events into cohesive, dramatic stories.
How does this unique creative process apply to “Gypsy?” Troy continues:
What distinguished “Gypsy”, he concluded, was the character of Mama Rose. “As critic Frank Rich has said, Mama Rose is the King Lear of musicals -- every great female performer wants to play her. So I structured my presentation as an audition for the part. For each of Rose’s songs, I feature a different performer: Ethel Merman, Rosalind Russell, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Patty LuPone. Then I ask the audience to vote for their favorite, after which I give my choice and my reasons.”
Along the way, Troy tells the story of how the show was created, taking a close look at Gypsy Rose Lee’s memoir, which was the musical’s source.
And it’s no accident that he’s programmed this particular presentation to coincide with the run of “Gypsy” at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre on Navy Pier. “When people learn the story behind the show,” he says, “They appreciate the play itself so much more.”
I couldn’t agree more. We saw the show and saw Charles' presentation at the Skokie Theater afterward.
Thanks to the incredible research Charles so deftly presents, he gave the audience a fresh take on the production because we were able to compare it with productions we hadn’t seen on Broadway.
We were virtually present at the auditions of the “Seven Roses:” Ethel Merman, Rosalind Russell, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, and Patty LuPone. We, with the incredible Troy “flashback” skill to guide us, were able to see pivotal performance pieces that speak volumes about the character, motivation, singing and acting of each Rose. Talk about time travel!
Preview more of the 50+ Troy productions.
ABOUT CHARLES TROY
Charles Troy is a graphic designer, copywriter, and former theatre lyricist. His more than 50 presentations merge his skills and his passion for musicals. He has presented them at various venues around the Chicago area, in Florida and other places across the country, and on Silversea luxury cruises.
For the last four years, he has presented at the annual Cole Porter Festival in Porter’s hometown of Peru, Indiana.
In 2012, his presentation on "Show Boat" was covered in a two-page spread in Pioneer Press, and his presentation on "The Wizard of Oz" was the subject of a page one article in the entertainment section of the Chicago Tribune.
He wrote the Stage Notes in the Playbill for the Marriott Theatre production of "South Pacific" last year, and for its current production of "Cabaret." Charles lives in Mundelein.
For more information, visit the Charles Troy website. While there, subscribe to the email reminder list so you don't miss any.