Theatre Mirror Reviews "Gypsy"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2013 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

The first show of Footlights Repertory Company's 2013 season in their brand new home at the Swansea Grange is the hit 1959 musical, "Gypsy" with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Arthur Laurents. He based the show loosely on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist. The show is the musical biography of stripper, Gypsy and her mother, Rose. It is the classic musical fable about the definitive stage mother, Momma Rose. It follows the daughter's life from her early days in vaudeville with her sister, June Havoc to her successful career in burlesque. The star of this show is really her tyrannical mother, Rose. Director Brian Simons picks, Lisa Reimer, a multitalented actress to fill this role played by Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters and Patti Lupone on stage and by Rosalind Russell and Bette Midler on film. Momma Rose pushes her two children into show business at any cost, to fulfill the dream of stardom she never achieved herself. "Gypsy" is a story of ambition, suppressed dreams and sacrifice. Brian fills the show with many comic moments mixed with some poignant ones to flesh out this script, leading to much laughter and a few tears shed along the way. Lisa, Chelsea Cook as Louise and John Faiola as Herbie and their supporting cast fill the theatre with their vocal, acting and dancing skills to pull off this musical. The audience cheers these performers with a thunderous standing ovation at the curtain call.

Brian directs and blocks this huge cast wonderfully. He also created the gorgeous period costumes for this show. Brian uses rear stage projections to change the scene, keeping the action flowing beautifully.The fantastic music direction is by Eli Bigelow who plays piano and conducts a six piece orchestra. Eli as music director, taught all the tongue twisting Stephen Sondheim lyrics and Jule Styne music to his talented vocalists. Another humorous aspect of this show is that Rose uses the same music over and over again, changing the lyrics but keeping the same music. Tricia Rodrigues as choreographer, supplies the topnotch dance moves for the younger children but also works her magic with the teens when they are transformed during the strobe dance number. Her other dances include tap, Charleston, soft shoe and strip numbers, too. These dances give the energetic boost to move the musical numbers forward. Outstanding dances include the Tulsa number, the Broadway section, Louise's strip scenes, soft shoe moves by Rose and Herbie and the comic Toreadorable dance scene.

Lisa Reimer delivers a tour-de-force performance as Rose, the stage mother of all stage mothers. She runs rough shod over her girls because she was never given the opportunity that they have because her mother left her at a young age. Modern day psychologists would have a field day with this real life woman. Her performance is reminiscent of Bette Midler. Lisa's acting prowess is marvelous because she can have you laughing hysterically one minute and sobbing uncontrollably the next. Lisa's belting voice in heard in "Some People" where she decides to leave her home in Seattle and head to Los Angeles, the show stopping "Everything's Coming Up Roses" where she has a mini nervous breakdown when June elopes with Tulsa, the trio song "Together" where she realizes that she, Herbie and Louise have to depend on each other and her long soliloquy "Rose's Turn" which brings down the house with its power and punch. Lisa also handles the romantic duets with ease, "Small World" when she first meets Herbie with the reprise bringing tears to you eyes in the second act when he leaves Rose for letting Louise become a stripper as well as their soft shoe number "You'll Never Get Away from Me". One of the funniest songs in the show is "Mr. Goldstone" where Rose and the kids sing to the booking agent who gets them on the Orpheum circuit as she throws food at him while the kids march around Mr. Goldstone. Lisa is terrific in this role, delivering the goods in a whirlwind of energy from her first entrance up the aisle with Chowsie, her dog to the final curtain where she leaves the stage in triumph. Brava!

Playing the role of Louise who becomes Gypsy Rose Lee is Chelsea Cook. She handles her transition from shy teenager into a sophisticated young woman during the show, beautifully. Chelsea shows off her strong voice as she sings "Together" with Lisa and John and as Louise shines in the most poignant song in the show "Little Lamb" where she wonders how old she really is. Chelsea grows into a more confident and assured ecdysiast during "Let Me Entertain" montage in the second act. This song became Gypsy Rose Lee's signature song when she performed at Minsky's. John Faiola who I have known since he was 14, plays the sympathetic role of Herbie, the booking agent who falls madly in love with Rose. His strong baritone voice is heard in the romantic duets with Lisa and in "Together" with Lisa and Chelsea. John's best acting scenes are when Herbie stands up to Pastey and threatens him with bodily harm, when he swears in front of Rose and Louise at the burlesque theater and when he finally stands up to Rose's terrible treatment and leaves her.

Emily Buckley, a pretty blond and wonderful dancer, plays dainty June beautifully. She wears a platinum blonde wig with banana curls as the character and sings and dances with the Newsboys in "Caroline" with a dancing cow and in "Broadway" where she realizes that she can't leave Caroline after all. Emily also sings "If Momma Was Married" a duet with Chelsea where they figure if Rose was married she'd leave them alone. She does funny splits in the group numbers while showing off her powerful voice. The singing and dancing baby June and baby Louise are well played by Sydney Carreiro and Emily Marshall as are the young Newsboys played by Ian Sigman, Jamie Roballo and Alex Coutts. Sydney shines in this role as this little firecracker performer.The older boys do a wonderful job, too. Another excellent dance number is by Dan Guay who plays Tulsa. He uses his terrific tenor voice to sell "All I Need is the Girl" but it is his dancing prowess during the number that will leave you most impressed. He does a splendid tap dance and Charleston during it. Dan and the other farm boys, Alex Coutts, Nate Carreiro and Kyle Cabral sound and look great in their singing and dancing numbers. Alex has many funny one liners and delivers them splendidly as the wise guy, Yonkers.

The biggest scene stealers are the three strippers in the second act. They are Jessica Bartlett as the trumpet playing Mazeppa, Jodie Trelor as the twinkling Electra and Kimberly Rau Harper as Tessie Turra who was a former ballerina. They sing the show stopping "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" which says you don't need to have any talent but these three ladies have lots of talent, dancing skills and singing voices.  Kimberly has many funny lines as Tessie and makes them all hit pay dirt. Jessica also is a hoot as Miss Cratchitt, the bitchy secretary in Act 1. Tara Borges does a nice comic turn as the naive Hollywood Blonde wanna be actress Agnes who wants to be known as Amanda. Nishan Lawton play multiple roles in this show as does Dana Rowe. I have happy memories of this show, having played Pastey back in 1979. So for a marvelous production of "Gypsy", be sure to catch Footlights show before it dances its way out of town. It is the must see show of this winter season.

"gypsy" (14 - 17 February)
The Swansea Grange, 65 Milford Road, SWANSEA MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide