Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Gypsy"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2007 by Carl A. Rossi


book by Arthur Laurents
lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
music by Jule Styne

directed by Caitlin Lowans
musical direction by Todd C. Gordon
choreography by Kelli Edwards

Mamma Rose … Leigh Barrett
Louise … Eve Kagan
Herbie … Scott H. Severance
Baby Louise … Emily Pinto
Baby June … Emily Sheeran
Newsboy … Brian Conry
Newboy … Alex Swaim
Newsboy … Jakob Michaels
Balloon Girl … Rebecca Lerman
Agnes/Dainty June Understudy … Allison Russell
Thelma/Showgirl … Stephanie Moskal
Marjorie May/Showgirl … Ariel Harrist
Dolores/Renee … Christina Kent
Geraldine/Showgirl … Jaclyn Sabogal
Dainty June … Lauren Wood
Tulsa … William Nash Broyles
L.A. … Tristan Viner-Brown
Angie … Andrew Barbato
Yonkers/Pastey … Phil Crumrine
Pop/Cigar … Ron Brinn
Uncle Jocko/Kringelein … Anthony Cascio
Weber/Mr. Goldstone … Stephen Turner
Tessie Tura/Miss Cratchitt … Shannon Lee Jones
Mazeppa … Vanessa Schukis
Electra … Rebecca Zaretsky
Understudy Tulsa/Farmboys … Michael Coup

Bass … Ben Stevens
Keyboard … Scott Nicholas
Percussion … Mick Lewander
Reed 1 … Heather Katz-Cote
Reed 2 … Jeri Sykes
Trombone … Rick Copeland
Trumpet 1 … Tim Cote
Trumpet 2 … Tom Stafford

Leigh Barrett is performing Mr. Sondheim at the Stoneham Theatre --- no, not THAT Sondheim; the EARLY Sondheim: Sondheim the budding lyricist, backed by Jule Styne’s tunes (almost every one, a standard) and Arthur Laurents’ libretto, the best book ever written for an American musical. That musical, of course, is GYPSY, suggested by the memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970) --- what a beautiful work of art, despite its distinctly American harshness; what an endless string of plum roles and set pieces! What an Everest for the actress scaling Mamma Rose who demands a larger-than-life personality and Wagnerian vocal chords; Ms. Barrett, however, is an ensemble-artist and belts through her mask than from her chest (“for ME!” in “Rose’s Turn” becomes “for MAY!”). When I first encountered Ms. Barrett, she strewed sunshine in my path but soon grew cold and clouded in New Musicals; that sunshine breaks through, here and there, especially in the minor numbers, and a friendly, attractive and sexy presence trots before you --- sexy in an aristocratic way; that is where Ms. Barrett’s true radiance lies --- in the dramatic moments, Ms. Barrett’s Rose is a little woman, resentful and hurt; this may be a psychologically consistent portrayal but it robs GYPSY of its whirlwind force. But Everest is there to climb and Mamma Rose to impersonate and Ms. Barrett, with her own compass, plants her flag in the name of Stoneham.

The production consists of two movable towers and an orchestra in silhouette against the scrim, and on the night I attended scene changes went BUMP behind the curtain (during one shift, a minor character coincidentally explains into a telephone, “They’re having trouble with the scenery…”) but these blemishes --- along with the sour horns --- should smooth themselves out by the time you attend, and attend you should for there are numerous delights here which include Scott H. Severance’s portly but decent Herbie, so often the cause of Ms. Barrett’s sunshine, Eve Kagan’s Louise, so much the gamin that one wonders where could the future stripper be hiding (sadly, her First Lady of Burlesque is bare-ly realized --- as with the Rape Scene in the Lyric’s MAN OF LaMANCHA, political correctness rules), William Nash Broyles’ winning Tulsa, backed by a convincing “period” trio, Allison Russell’s whining Agnes, a comedienne-to-be, and the hilarious contrast between Shannon Lee Jones and Vanessa Schukis as strippers Tessie Tura and Mazeppa; Ms. Jones is statuesque like the late Ms. Lee, resembles the young Angela Lansbury, spits her barbs with a candied sweetness and is altogether edible --- and Everest again comes to mind when Ms. Schukis first crosses the stage in her gladiator drag. Ms. Schukis herself has a Mamma Rose waiting, within --- but that is another day and another production.

"Gypsy" (13 September - 7 October)
395 Main Street, STONEHAM, MA
1 (781) 279-2200

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England’s LIVE Theater Guide