On Gower Champion

"The speed at which the musical travels is Gower Champion. Otherwise, ... we’d still be waiting for scenes to change..." --- author John Anthony Gilvey in an interview with Harold Channer

The "brown-out," as Champion would sometimes call it, is the name for changing a scene in full view of the audience. Instead of stage lights being turned off completely during an act break - a black out - the lights might be dimmed and changing scenery and props would become a part of the choreography.

Gilvey is the author of the well-researched, detailed, and Marge Champion-endorsed biography Before the Parade Passes By: Gower Champion and the Great American Musical.

Watch the Gilvey interview on Gower Champion here. You can skip to the quote here; it is at 44:48.


  1. I LOVE his style. The theatre i currently work at has a REALLY bad habit of using Blackouts. A few shows back We did a show set in a kitchen and used almost every piece of my beloved Pyrex in the show. Well one of the Producers threw a fit over the fact we dimmed the lights to purple (so the stage crew coucl change things and not break my dishes) and said "It was stupid we werenot just using blackouts... that more professional." (Obviously "they" are not well rounded in the was of Theatre Technique!

  2. Love this photo! I'm not familiar with the book, I need to look into that one.

    I was fortunate to see Gower Champion when he directed a local small theater production of OUR TOWN in Long Beach, CA. (I'm not sure what prompted him to do it amidst big musicals, but I remember that the show was exremely graceful, kind of "choreographed.") I had a front row seat and he came out and stood right in front of me to explain that Eddie Albert, who was scheduled to be the Stage Manager, was stuck filming on location when his movie ran over schedule and he couldn't be at the preview I was attending, so Eddie's son Edward was doing to do the role, using a leatherbound script. It worked out quite well and I enjoyed the added benefit of seeing Mr. Champion. :)

    Best wishes,

  3. Mick, thanks for sharing your theater experience. I hope your Pyrex survived intact since I know how much you enjoy your vintage collections.

    Champion's style is quite gentlemanly, spirited and innovative, if that makes any sense. He's suave, energetic and you can almost see the gears turning in his head.

    It's a great book! I was amazed at how much detail Gilvey goes into when describing the dance numbers.

    Although the author pays particular attention to Champion's later Broadways numbers, he also revists dance routines for which the Champions became famous in night clubs - story dances. Since there is no way I would ever see those lost numbers, I was grateful for the detail.

    Gilvey has tons of information from his own interviews with Marge Champion. That was a huge endorsement.

    This book has spoiled me; I began to wonder why other musical stars' biographies aren't as thorough.

    By the way, thanks for the link and for sharing your experience of seeing the man himself!

  4. You're very welcome! I appreciate the additional info on the book -- it sounds fantastic! Can't wait to order it. Hopefully within the month!

    Best wishes,


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