Tropy Abroad is a one-man musical I put on over at the Stone Lake Arts Center back
in March of '06. I did three performances, not tremendously full houses, but those who came
enjoyed the show.
Tropy Abroad was written in 1941 by Gustav van Whoorst. Gustav was the rather obscure son of his much more famous father, Tyler van Whoorst, the famous Dutch polymath. Gustav's son, Eddie, has also obtained some notoriety as, among other things, a rock critic. Gustav's fame rests solely upon "Tropy Abroad" and few other small peices from the 40s and 50s, mainly journal articles.
Tropy Abroad recounts the adventures of Tropy Añotez, a scholar of mixed Roma and Spanish decent, who spends a summer tutoring Princess Sophia, daughter of King Nikola I, the poet king of Montenegro. Tropy is mild-mannered, overly romantic and somehwat fuddle-headed. He does, however, possess a sort of folksy wisdom that of course cuts through the madcap web of trouble he lands himself in. This trouble includes an unwanted suitor, a lost parrot, and a night in a provincial jail. The story is set in the late 1890's, largely at the Montenegran court, though one scene takes place in the palace of the (fictional) Sultan of Dharbi. I cut this scene for two reasons: 1) it's poorly written, and the only scene without memorable music; 2) the scene serves only as a set-up for an obvious pun on the Derby Bowler Tropy is never without. (Derby = Dharbi)
Other high points in the story include Tropy's romantic involvement with a Fisherman's Daughter which sets up the only song from the show to hit the charts: The Fish of Love (recorded with little notice in 1955 by Vic Damone).
Tropy Añotez is a mild caricature of Gustav's father, Tyler. It is difficult to ascertain the nature of their relationship. Very little of their correspondence remains (though a certain library in San Fernando de Apure, Venezuela is said to archive a small, as yet unexamined collection of vanWhoorst documents). There is no doubt that in the 1940's the elder van Whoorst and his son had split along political lines, only to be reconciled shortly before the former's death in the late 1960s. This much is evident in treatment of Colonel Scpratz in the libretto.
Though not originally conceived as such, Tropy Abroad lends itself well to one-man performance. The parts of the Tropy and the Narrator combine with no difficulty; the other parts are largely merged into the narration. All songs and speeches originally in the voice of supporting characters can be fit reasonably well to the voice of Tropy himself.
The script specifies that the set be minimal, though with several surrealistic elements. The giant Hand, the only indispensible piece, was built be me with help from the Turtle Lake Drama program. The Hand, according to Gustav's own notes, symbolizes both the grasping nature of humanity, and the guarding grace of God. In my opinion, it also does much to heighten the audience's suspension of disbelief. The script otherwise careens in and out of realism with such abruptness that the show is unwatchable. The Hand serves to anchor the stranger passages with a definable image, and set the more staid moments on edge.
So, now that you know all that. Go check out the photos. Sound clips to follow.