One Man Star Wars
Review by Diana, MaceVindaloo, Csillag, Bunchbox, SuSu, Diasala
Creator: Charles Ross
Starring: Charles Ross
Rating: Imperial Star Destroyer (popular crowd pleaser)
We first saw this man at C3, where he performed a couple of shows a day to crowds of 3,500 adoring Star Wars fans who loved everything he did and hollered at him when he tried to explain what he was doing, "We know!" So he got a gig in an off-Broadway theatre ... how would he fare in a New York environment? Wouldeven the Big Apple have enough GFFA'ers to pay $40 to $55 a pop to watch him depict the original trilogy in under an hour? Performing all by himself?
Charles Ross does indeed perform all the parts, music, special effects, etc. in a distilled presentation of the first three movies (the non-prequels). He's a fanboy in a big way, having fallen under the spell of Star Wars in its original form in 1977. He estimates he's seen that film nearly 1000 times by now, and the other two for hundreds of times apiece as well. He tells of him and director TJ tossing a frisbee at each other in college, reciting one line. When you catch the frisbee, you have to then recite the line that followed it. Apparently, neither man has ever achieved an edge over the other.
It's a weird concept, seeing a man in a black jumpsuit and a wireless headphone microphone on a bare, black stage. The only props besides the lights are Ross's very own body and voice. He contorts himself into Yoda or an AT-AT (even collapsing chin-down and butt-up on the stage after Luke lobs a grenade into it); tussles his hair so it blows in the wind in the way only 1970s layered cuts can move; unmoors his eyes to depict Palpatine, who spits in his glee and rage.
It's actually a bit uncomfortable watching him ... it's a little like staring at an insane person, or paying admission to an asylum just to watch the antics of the inmates. But he seems to genuinely love what he is doing, and the people around us were either aghast at the energy or sheer passion displayed. In a way, it's a love letter to the original trilogy, for all it's done for Ross's life, and for everyone in the audience and beyond (no matter how you feel about the prequels). It seems he never pauses for a breath extolling his beloved; in fact, he only stops between "episodes" to take a swig of bottled water just barely off-stage. (We're pretty unanimous in expecting that the water has crack in it, or the like.)
Ross also punctuated his show with commentary, noting that General Dodonna is the only character to refer to Princess Leia as "Lee-yah." Or when Luke opened his father's helmet, he'd be shocked to find his father was not James Earl Jones ... and the unfairness of the medal ceremony, when Chewbacca didn't receive his medal! There were genuine fans in the audience who whooped and laughed at the inside jokes, and there were people who had come out of curiosity or maybe they were dragged there. But in the end, everyone applauded and even stood for an ovation. Yeah, it's really dorky, but honestly, who in this universe wouldn't understand when R2D2 whistles and razzes C3PO?
It's the ultimate pop culture fanboy moment, and what's more, Ross has managed to do very well at an off-Broadway theatre. He doesn't pack the house every night, but he more than breaks even, and has done well enough that the show will be extended through to the new year! Originally, this show was to be platooned with his depiction of the "One Man Lord of the Rings," but instead, that show will get its own run, since the Star Wars show is doing so well.
Ross does a "follow your dreams" schpiel at the end of the show, plugs Toys R Us for action figures and toys, thanks everyone for coming. It's very corny and hokey, but many people love this part of the show; some online forums complain when he leaves it out!
He's done this show for an audience of one, as well as for crowds of 3,500 at C3, but it's the same show. We've watched him a few times now, and admire his consistency. It's a bit like a church service one of read about; how a priest will do the service whether anyone else is there or not, because it's for the glory of God, not his own ego (or so the tale said). We think Charles Ross, in his nearly religious worship of the Star Wars original trilogy, would perform the show even if that one person wasn't in the audience. Maybe it's just something he has to do?
The only real and practical downside of this show is the licensing. Undeniably, Lucasfilm owns the right to allow this show to run, and Ross actually did say that "a dream and a good lawyer will get you where you want to go!" Alas, none of these types of shows can be available on tape or DVD for continued enjoyment. Many of us would love to watch it again like we do the movies. (Wonder who to contact to allow this to happen??)
The Lamb Theatre is actually cute. It's a mission church disguised as a tenement building on 44th Street between 6th Avenue and Broadway, actually right next door to St. Andrew's Bar and Restaurant. The lobby has the type of kitchen / dining room that reminds you of Guys & Dolls and the "Save a Soul Mission." It has big fireplaces and cardboard standing cutouts of stormtroopers, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Luke, Han, Jawas ... you wait till the show is nearly open, and you climb up three flights of stairs (follow the stormtroopers and clone troopers pointing the way) to the theatre, which is filled with carved wood- and plaster-work, painted in a highly ornamental style. The seats are comfy and the place is clean, too. Never know where theatres hide themselves in this town!
Charles Ross has brought small-time theater to the Big Smoke, and he's doing well with it! Support your local theatre (especially the dorky stuff), and you never know where it can take the players and the fans!
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