Me: Okay, last time I was here, you told a story about how a woman was sitting in the front row center seat, and then burst out crying at the end of the show, just to come back the following evening and hand you a rose in the curtain call- sitting again in that same seat. Clearly, this show moves people. Any other experiences of recent that are similar to this?
Rob: Yes. So, I use a lot of canes in the show. I have the bendy Chaplin-y magic cane.
Me: Ever scared that that’s going to break?
Rob: Always. We have the thin cane to do a hat tip trick in the Sennett sequence. There is the normal cane for Colella’s number, plus a few other scenes. Then, there is a large, chunky old-man style can that I use at the end for the Oscars- something that is actually really moving. I got a note from a guy named Franky Polumbo, who I think is coming to the show tonight strangely enough. He sent a note backstage. It said, “The show was great. I’m sure you’ve heard every compliment you can hear.” I love when people say that. It’s as if I am discrediting you saying nice things about me! It’s very sweet. But he said that the moment that got him the most was when I walked out for the Oscars and actually needed a cane. The cane wasn’t for laughs, it wasn’t for props. The cane- Charlie needed it.
Me: Very interesting.
Rob: Franky Polumbo, as of a few months ago, was finally told by a doctor that he needed to walk with a cane. He said that he was someone that has physical stamina his entirely life, and just like Chaplin, he was watching this evening of an unstoppable force. And then suddenly, age caught up, and he was stoppable. He said, “Something about that landed on me in a way that I found myself weeping in the audience. Relating to that moment of thinking you’re invincible and suddenly, life catches up with you.”
Rob: Isn’t it amazing how much we don’t realize when things in our show are resonating with people on a completely different level. I would have never thought of that. I would have never thought that for someone who suddenly needs a cane, that that moment could tear them up, and really make them look inward. Our show is moving them in a way that I didn’t expect. There was a woman who told that she was abandoned by her parents- left in her house. A neighbor found the baby. All of those “Mommy, Mommy don’t leave me!” scenes are resonating within her in a way that I cannot imagine. So, there’s always somebody in the house in every moment of our show who is bringing their life experience to the table, and allowing the show to echo in them however it will. So, that’s exciting.
Me: Amazing. You mentioned canes. Do you go through a lot of different hats as well?
Rob: I do. I have two different types of hats in the show. I have my first hat I ever wore in La Jolla that I still use for the Tramp discovery because it rolling down my arm- it has a certain weight. We’re like good friends, and I don’t want to let it go. The costume designer kept on saying, “I’ve got a bunch of different hats for you to try for that one trick.” I kept saying, “Can I please use my hat? I know it’s weight, I know how it feels. It’s my hat.” Then, throughout the evening, I use three different hats for moments where I don’t need it to be so specific. The trick hat, and non-trick hats. Another fun fact- I go through fourteen mustaches per show. Oh, and tonight, starting for Broadway Cares, we’re going to auction off my bowler and my mustache every night.
Me: Oh that’s very cool. I’m sure that will go over great.
Rob: Yah, and I think I’m going to sign the hat with a silver sharpie. So, we’ll auction that off each performance. Not my trick hat thought! They will never have my trick hat!
Me: It must never go away!
Stayed tuned for Part Eight!