GILVEY, a graduate of New York University's
Doctoral Program in Educational Theatre,
also holds degrees from Villanova and De
Sales Universities. He is a professor of
theater and speech at St. Joseph's College,
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS OF THE
What was the inspiration for your book?
As a boy in Philadelphia, it seemed the biggest new hit
musicals, like Bye Bye Birdie and Carnival,
had one thing in common—they were directed and choreographed
by Gower Champion. When a new duplex movie theatre opened
in our neighborhood with a re-release of MGM’s 1951 Show
Boat some 12 years after its debut, the name Champion
caught my attention once more as I watched Gower and Marge
dance spectacularly. At 15 when my teachers stuck me in the
chorus of our high school’s production of Bye Bye Birdie,
there was Gower’s name on the script. Soon Ginger Rogers
arrived at the Forrest Theater in the national tour of
Hello, Dolly!, and I finally got to see first hand what
the prolific Mr. Champion had done to generate all the
“Dolly-mania” then sweeping the country. The show was
breathtaking; a kaleidoscopic wonder of color and movement
as touching as it was dazzling.
How and why did you start
working on this book?
Part of the book
is from an earlier work, Gower Champion as Director:
An Analysis of His Craft in Four Broadway Musicals,
1961-1968, my dissertation for New York University published
in 1995. The study covered Champion’s productions of Carnival, Hello, Dolly!,
I Do! I Do!, and
The Happy Time.
Research began in 1990 after I realized very little had
been written about him and his musicals. This was
considering that he was the most artistically and
commercially successful director-choreographer of the
1960s. After finishing the dissertation and receiving
my PhD, I wanted to tell the story of Gower and his
musicals. Before the Parade Passes By is the
fulfillment of that wish.
What is particularly significant about Before the
Parade Passes By?
Until now, no popular biography or critical
assessment of Gower Champion’s work has been written.
What literature there is has been either academic (Gower
Champion: Dance and the American Musical Theatre by
David Payne-Carter [Westport, CT: Greenwood Press,
1999]) or anthological (Broadway, The Golden Years:
Jerome Robbins and the Great Choreographer-Directors,
1940 to the Present by Robert Emmet Long [New York:
Continuum, 2001]). In light of this, the significance
of Before the Parade Passes By is especially
Through the waning days of vaudeville, the post-war era
of glittering nightclubs, Hollywood musicals and early
television, and finally, the golden age and decline of
the Broadway musical, Before the Parade Passes By
is a compelling voyage with one of America’s greatest
showmen and a remarkable study of the craft that
streamlined today’s musicals. It not only brings to
life the story of Gower Champion, but also defines the
essence of his craft and his contributions to the
musical. Furthermore, the book serves as a window on a
particular time in the history of American culture using
one artist’s life to show how the musical has become
what it is today.
What qualifies you to write about Gower Champion and
Four Champion musicals—Carnival (1961),
Hello, Dolly! (1964), I Do! I Do! (1966), and
The Happy Time (1968)—were subjects of the
dissertation I composed for my Doctoral Degree in
Educational Theatre from New York University. Gower
Champion as Director: An Analysis of His Craft in Four
Broadway Musicals, 1961-1968 (New York U., 1995.
Ann Arbor, UMI 1996, 9701496) is considered to be the
definitive work on these shows by many of the
performers, songwriters, and designers I interviewed who
worked on them.
My research comprises over 50 personal interviews with
Gower Champion’s family, friends and colleagues
(including Marge Champion, Jerry Orbach, and Carol
Channing), in-depth study of his director’s scripts from
the Special Collections Division of the Research Library
at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the
private collection of Karla Champion, scrapbooks from
the private collections of Jeanne Tyler and Marge
Champion, and files, film and video about him and his
productions found in the Billy Rose Theatre Collection
of the Performing Arts Division of the New York Public
Library at Lincoln Center. My personal collection also
contains over 100 photographs spanning his career.
Who will be interested in this book?
Before the Parade Passes By is sure to appeal
to anyone who enjoys biography, books on popular
culture, and the performing arts—especially theatre,
film, television, and dance. It will equally interest
performing arts professionals, educators, and students
who will profit from the behind-the-scenes story of the
director-choreographer’s creative process and how he
shaped and adapted his work for film, television and
Who are your favorite authors?
In musical theater, I especially admire the works of
Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, George Gershwin, Cole
Porter and Rodgers and Hart. Recent biographies I’ve
enjoyed include Scott Eyman’s Lion of Hollywood: The
Life and Legend of Louis B. Mayer, Deborah Jowitt’s
Jerome Robbins: His Life, His Theater, His Dance, and
Steven Bach’s Dazzler: The Life and Times of Moss Hart.