One actor, a bare stage and nine hours of material condensed to 60 minutes is a counterintuitive recipe for entertainment in an era of blockbuster movies that feature guitars that shoot flames, vehicles built of amps and an ever-expanding reliance on CGI. Charlie Ross is returning to Oklahoma City, and fans of his 2002 One Man Star Wars Trilogy will surely be in the audience when his One Man Lord of the Rings debuts in the state.
Ross took his Star Wars act on the road, hitting the fringe theater circuit with no idea of how well received his condensed version of his favorite childhood movies would be. Before he was done, fans in 180 cities on four continents had seen the show. Media outlets as diverse as Conan, Esquire and Chicago Tribune gave him rave reviews.
Charlie watched the movies hundreds of times as a kid, Donald Jordan said.
Jordan is the artistic director of Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre (CityRep), the organization bringing Ross back to the metro.
The trilogy was sort of a babysitter for him, Jordan said.
As with the first trilogy, Ross wrote the LOTR script himself, and he performs it by himself. Wearing a wireless microphone, a jumpsuit and elbow and kneepads, Ross has only his talent, humor and script to work with.
There is lighting support and sound, of course, Jordan said, but its Charlies energy and creativity that make the show work.
CityRep is known mostly for cutting-edge drama, the kind of material that is not very family-friendly. Ross shows are an exception. For the Star Wars trilogy, JediOKC got involved by dressing in costume, ushering guests and taking pictures with kids (and adults). The atmosphere around Ross shows is much more conducive to a family outing, and the energy that he brings to a performance keeps young people engaged.
In addition to energy and talent, Ross shows work because he is a genuine fan. He calls himself a professional geek, but the Canadian comic is more than a geek. He brings what Jordan calls the magic of human talent and live theatricality to his show. They are homages to his childhood loves, which helps bridge the divide between actor and audience.
These shows really do appeal to the hardcore fan, Jordan said. But they are entertaining for those who arent familiar with the material too.
As Ross moves from Gollum to Legolas, Samwise and Gandalf, he changes voices and posture, imbuing each character with vocal and physical differences that the audience will quickly recognize. Rather than staying detached from his audience, Ross engages them with asides and commentary on Peter Jacksons epic films. He isnt afraid to poke fun at Jacksons interpretation when he believes its appropriate either.
Knowing the films well is important for getting some of Ross jokes, but the show works for everyone because Ross inhabits each character and captivates audiences with energy, wit and genuine fanboy love.
Print headline: One-man army, Charlie Ross brings his interpretation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy to OKC.