note: entire contents copyright 2010 by Larry Stark
Directed And Choreographed by Richard Sabellico
Musical Direction by Nick DeGregorio
Scenic Design by Campbell Baird
Lighting Design by Jack Mehler
Costume Coordination by Jose Rivera
Sound Design by James McCartney
Wig & Hair Design by Gerard Kelly
Stage Manager Gail Eve Malatesta
June.................Amanda Lea Lavergne
Baby June....................Sarah Safer
Baby Louise..............Hanna Piispanen
Tessie Tura...............Laurie Gamache
Mazeppa...........Jacquelyn Piro Donovan
Cow...Amanda Frennier, Sarah Marie Hicks
Uncle Jocko/Cigar.....Martin A. Passante
Balloon Girl.......Aliya Victoriya Druth
Cheyenne Beauparlant, Heather Beauparlant,Isaac Beauperlant,
Uatchet Nekhebet Juch, Andrew Murdoch
Shane Braz, Harrison Gray, Leo Santoro
Nisi Ari, Richard Bell, John Allen Biles, Jack Doyle, Alliy Drago,
Hayley Driscoll, Amanda Frennier, Sarah Marie Hicks, Tony Johnson, Trey Mitchell,
Matthew Moore, Martin A. Passante, Eric Shorey, Matthew Simpkins, Diane Terrusa
A near sell-out crowd --- around 1,800 Standing O theater-lovers --- showed up last night to welcome THE NORTH SHORE MUSIC THEATRE back to the land of the living. And everyone, from Joyce Kulhawik on down, was there: the mayor of near-by Beverly, a hand-full of senators and representatives from the state legislature, the producer-emeritous of NSMT Jon Kimbell, and the current producer and savior Bill Hanney --- And the best news of the evening was that t-v star Vicki Lewis playing Mama Rose and an enthusiastic cast of 36 performers (and one fluffy little dog) filled the circular stage with a solid, gritty, uncompromising production of "Gypsy" that easily upstaged all of the introductory speeches and sent people home confident that NSMT is, once again, alive and well and with a future.
Director Richard Sabellico has held Mama Rose's dreams of stardom in vaudeville for her two daughters against the cruel grindstones of poverty, mediocre routines, empty repetition, and dwindling bookings. A succession of ageing chorus-kids open the act singing "Extra!Extra! Here's The Headliner!" --- whether they're costumed as little newsboys, bigger newsboys, farm-hands, Toreadorable Girls, or Hollywood Blondes. Only the strident and unrealistic enthusiasm of an irrepressible stage-mother forces this talentless crew to keep performing to the very bitter end of vaudeville itself. It's at that point that a trio of haughty burlesque stars ("I'm a stripper. I Don't Do LINES!") demonstrate that, with even less talent, they can cover their --- deficiencies with shameless imagination.
Vicki Lewis as Mama Rose is everywhere, shouting coaching and encouragement from the wings, bullying bookers into reluctant contracts, complaining about billing, repeatedly dreaming "improvements" to their sagging act, pushing "Baby" June (Sarah Safer) into Mama's dream as "Darling" June (Amanda Lea Lavergne) --- until, breaking away on her own she followed her own dream and turned into June Havoc.
In this production, the closing number of ACT I --- the stirring "Everything's Coming Up Roses" --- is a heartbreaking triumph of hope over experience. It signal's Mama's blindly cruel decision to replace June with her klutzie second-banana sister Louise, whose only talents are neatness sewing costumes and forgiving her mother for favoring her talented sibling.
In the end, of course, it's Catherine Walker who, having successfully hidden her assets beautifully as Louise, emerges as burlesque's starring butterfly Gypsy Rose Lee, who can tel-off her clinging mother while still loving the force that drove them all through show-business.
Early on Mama finds an agent --- Herbie, the help-mate, the father-figure, the always-potential never-accepted husband. Local star Kirby Ward makes him the most human of all these driven, self-deluded dreamers. He sneeks kids occasional "salaries" out of his own pocket, temper's Rose's enthusiasms, sympathizes with everyone's heartbreaks, but sorrowfully departs when his own dream of a steady job and a home full of kids becomes impossible.
"Mama says 'Make 'em beg for more --- but don't give it to 'em!' " says the wealthy star in her glittering burlesque-act. (Walker makes four skin-out costume-changes in a little on-stage cabin, documenting Gypsy Rose Lee's triumphant career.) But the true triumph here remains Vicki Lewis' gritty, wilful Mama Rose, a woman trying to live her dream through her daughters --- yet occasionally willing to display the best legs in the cast while urging her kids on from the wings. Hers is a genuine star-turn, lighting the North Shore Music Theatre once more for what everyone hopes is a future as bright as its brilliant past.
( a k a larry stark )