Ocean State Theatre Company's second show of their summer season is the hit 1959 musical "Gypsy" with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Arthur Laurents based loosely on the 1957 autobiography of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist. The musical is about Gypsy and her mother, Rose. It is the classic fable about the definitive stage mother, Mama Rose. It follows her daughter's life with her sister, June Havoc from their early days in vaudeville to her successful career in burlesque. The star of this show is really her tyrannical mother, Rose as she pushes her children into show business at any cost to fulfill the dream of stardom which she never achieved herself. "Gypsy" is a story of suppressed dreams and sacrifice. Director Russell Garrett fills the show with many comic moments along the way with some poignant ones to flesh out the script, leading to much laughter and a few tears shed along the way and his dance numbers always shine in every show I've seen him choreograph. Music director Justin P. Cowan conducts a six piece orchestra, plays lead keyboards and taught the hard working cast the intricate musical numbers. The trumpet player shines in this show. Their expertise induces the appreciative audience to rise to their feet on a job very well done. Bravo!
The plentiful and breathtaking costumes are by Brian Horton while the sets are by Kimberly V. Powers. Producing Artistic director Amiee Turner follows in the footsteps of Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, Tyne Daly and Patti Lupone in the iconic role of Rose. As Rose she runs roughshod over her daughters because she never had the opportunity they have because her mother left her at a young age. Current day psychologists would have a field day with this woman. Amiee's belting singing voice is heard in "Some People" where she belts out she's leaving Seattle and heading to L.A., "Everything's Coming Up Roses" where she has a mini nervous breakdown when June elopes with Tulsa, "Together", the trio song when she realizes that Herbie, Louise and she have to stick it out, and in the show stopping "Rose's Turn" where Rose finally struts her stuff. She rips your heart out in this magnificent number. Amiee also handles the ballads, "Small World" when she first meets Herbie, and "You'll Never Get Away From Me", their soft shoe number. The funniest number is "Mr. Goldstone" where Rose and the kids try to entice the producer with all the food they have. Amiee gives a strong performance in this enormous role, tugging on your heartstrings when Herbie leaves her and during her angst filled confrontation with Louise in the last scene. It is an electrifying finish to this well directed show.
Christopher Swan who last played the King of Siam at Ocean State, returns as the sympathetic Herbie, who falls in love with Rose. His powerful voice is heard in the romantic duets with Amiee and in the trio "Together", displays his strong dancing skills. His best dramatic moments are when he threatens Pastey with bodily harm after swearing in front of Rose and Louise and when he finally stands up to Rose's obsession of being a stage mother all those years. Playing the role of Louise who becomes Gypsy is Kristin Wetherington. She displays her acting prowess in the transition from shy teenager to sophisticated woman during the course of the show. Kristin's gorgeous voice is heard in the duet with June called "If Momma Was Married" where they wish Rose would marry Herbie and leave them alone, "Together" trio, and solos in the most poignant song in the show, "Little Lamb"where she sings about not knowing how old she is. She also shows her growth as an ecdysiast during the "Let Me Entertain You" segment. Kristin is also dynamite in the final confrontation scene with Rose. Kristin is especially outstanding when she yells at her mother delivering a far superior performance in this the last scene than the gal who performed it with Angela Lansbury back in 1974. They play it very realistically.
Juliette Sallaway who has a marvelous voice and is a wonderful dancer plays the role of June with blonde banana curls. She sings and dances with the older newsboys in "Caroline" which has a comical cow dancing in it and in "Broadway" where she realizes she can't leave Caroline the cow anymore. Juliette does amazing splits during these dances and displays her voice in "If Momma Was Married" with Kristin. The singing and dancing younger June and Louise are beautifully played by Victoria Cardi and Abigail Paige. The newsboys do a topnotch military dance with the girls. They are played by Gia Antonelli, Bobby Miller III and Wesley Memery.
The biggest scene stealers in the show are the three strippers in the second act. Tamra Stephenson as the trumpet playing Mazeppa, Jennifer Mischley as the twinkling, Electra and Taryn Mallard-Reid as Tessie Tura who was a former ballerina. They sing the show stopping "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" which says you don't need talent but these three ladies absolutely have lots of talent, dancing skills and singing voices. Tamra is a hoot as the tough as nails trumpet playing broad. Jennifer not only twinkles while she shakes it but also plays the comic, crabby Miss Cratchit in Act 1. She delivers the goods in this character role! Taryn has many funny lines and Tessie, making them all hit pay dirt. They win her sustained laughter. Dan Reardon is terrific as Tulsa. His song and dance solo, "All I Need Is the Girl" is superb. He displays his powerful baritone voice during the number but it is his dance expertise that will astound you. The farm boys do an excellent job and are played by Joe DeLeo, Tyler Whitaker and Peter Williams. They stop the show with their dancing in "Broadway"! Another comic performer is Morgan Rose as Agnes, one of the Toreoadorables, who delivers her one liners with glee. I have many happy memories of this show, having played Pastey back in 1979. So for a topnotch classic musical, be sure to catch "Gypsy" at Ocean State before they dance their way out of town.