Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Gypsy"

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note: entire contents copyright 2009 by Carl A. Rossi


"Gypsy"

book by Arthur Laurents,
suggested by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee
lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
music by Jules Styne

directed by Bill Doscher
choreographed by Laurie Fisher
musical direction by Juri Panda Jones

Uncle Jocko … Larry Shiman
George … Angel Garcia
Thomas the Tapper … Alec Shiman
Balloon Girl … Kharimah Muhammad
Chris the Clarinet Player … Chris Gillis
Little Louise … Madeleine Snow
Baby June … Tori Heinlein
Rose … Mary O’Donnell
Pops … Brad Walters

NEWSBOYS:
Elizabeth Bayard; Lissette Velez-Cross;
Miranda Gelch; Emily Greenslit; Tania Llera-Stern;

Mrs. Webber … Elizabeth Bean
Herbie … Rishi Basu
Louise/Gypsy … Johanna Perri
June … Alanna Gene Woonteiler
Tulsa … Matthew Kossack
Yonkers … Michael Mosey
Angie … Rob Guptill
L.A. … Benjamin Mallare
Sunshine … Sean London Young
Kringelein … Gordon Bedford
Mr. Goldstone … Jesse Martin
Miss Cratchitt … Judy Maggs

HOLLYWOOD BLONDES:
Elizabeth Bean; Sonia Carrion; Miranda Gelch;
Molly Gilbert; Sarah Sadie Frost; Amanda Zane

Patsy … Gordon Belford
Tessie Tura … Linda Goetz
Mezeppa … Amanda Aldi
Electra … Jenny Bragdon
Cigar … Larry Shiman
Phil … Matthew Kossack
Caroline the Cow … Jenny Bragdon and Elizabeth Bean

ORCHESTRA:
Music Director … Juri Panda Jones
Keyboards/Synthesizer … Ai Isshiki Higgins
Synthesizer … Jeremy Reinhold
Trumpet … Sam Dechenne
Bass … Chris Takita
Drums … Rob Rudin

GYPSY is the greatest of American musicals; the more I see it performed, the more I am astonished by it: a solid book in the Rodgers & Hammerstein mode but with plenty of presentational razzamatazz, a psychological study of a stage mother obsessed with turning her daughters into stars played out against the era of vaudeville declining into burlesque, a clutch of Sondheim-Styne songs that have long become standards but illuminate brilliantly in context --- even its craftsmanship astonishes: there’s a long first act en route to Louise becoming Gypsy Rose Lee but one’s breathless interest never flags, throughout, and while one can contentedly walk out of WEST SIDE STORY after the Big Dances of Act One, who in his/her right mind would miss seeing “You Gotta Have a Gimmick”, Louise’s transformation, and “Rose’s Turn” in GYPSY’s Act Two? And, finally, GYPSY is practically foolproof: it dwells on the tacky, the tawdry, the amateur, the has-been, and thus it can still work in (and run parallel to) an evening low in polish but high in sincerity as is the case for the current production at the Footlight Club, America’s Oldest Community Theatre. Director Bill Doscher drew impressive work from the lay-about hippies in Footlight’s HAIR; here, he is not as fortunate since his new ensemble is, overall, clumsy and GYPSY, if nothing else, is a show that must be ever moving forward --- smoothly. Mr. Doscher has added his own annoyances: an unnecessary mime during the Overture, leaden turns between the low-budget scene changes, and Baby Louise/Louise doing everything but walking into walls to signal what an Ugly Duckling she is. But when sifting the production through my memory-pan, I come up with some gold: the never-fail Uncle Sam dissolve with strobe lights which jolts everyone involved into a few magical seconds; the grinding, lecherous voice of Brad Walters as Pops and an offstage emcee (the only “dirty” parts of a very clean evening); the ever-welcome Linda Goetz whose Tessie Tura is a master class in timing and presence; Alanna Gene Woonteiler making her June a calculating brat instead of the usual insipid one; Matthew Kossack whose Tulsa dances, well, enough; Johanna Perri whose Louise is sweet enough but lacks what made Ms. Lee truly sexy: a winking sense of humor that relaxed her audiences; and, finally, much of Rishi Basu’s Herbie and Mary O’Donnell’s Rose. The tall, hefty Mr. Basu has an oratorio solemnity about him that nearly makes him a part of the scenery (he is a concert performer, elsewhere) but his bass-baritone, banked for Herbie, must be magnificent when unleashed, and his self-effacement can be read as “devotion” when blended with Ms. O’Donnell’s hyper Rose: he is the daddy-harbor for her storm-tossed little girl.

Ms. O’Donnell's Rose is not the Furies and the Muses rolled into one but, rather, a domestic goddess --- detailed, not epic. She has yet to find Rose’s core from which all of her bustle springs, but Ms. O’Donnell hangs onto the role like a broncobuster, rationing her vocal guns, and sounds as fresh-voiced for “Rose’s Turn” as she does for “Small World”. How can I best describe her fascinating sound? I’ll settle for “a bell clapper wrapped in velvet” --- thus, Ms. O’Donnell can belt, quietly. Rose is the Hamlet of the American Musical and any production of GYPSY is a temptation for Rose-fanatics. A few more Footlight performances remain should you want to give Ms. O’Donnell a try.

"Gypsy" (3 - 18 April)
THE FOOTLIGHT CLUB
7A Eliot Street, JAMAICA PLAIN MA
1 (617) 524-3200

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide

| MARQUEE | USHER | SEATS | INTERMISSION | CURTAIN |