Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Arcadia"

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"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

Reviews of Current Productions

note: entire contents copyright 2000 by Larry Stark


"Gypsy"

Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Spiro Veloudos
Musical Direction by Jonathan Goldberg
Choreography by Ilyse Robbins

Scenic Design by Ted Arabian
Costume Design by Gail Astrid Buckley and Robert M. Russo
Lighting Design by Craig Brennan
Sound Design by A. Stanley Gurczak
Stage Manager Laurie A. Light

Baby Louise.......................................................................Molly Harrison
Baby June...................................................Samantha Goober/Sophie Rich
Balloon Girl.........................................................................Meahgan DuBois
Rose.................................................................................Maryann Zschau
Herbie...................................................................................Frank Gayton
Louise..............................................................................Laura Schweitzer
June................................................................................Jennifer Beth Glick
Tulsa..........................................................................................Brad Evans
Yonkers......................................................................................Will Cohen
L.A. .............................................................................Matthew Sousourian
Tessie Tura..............................................................................Eileen Nugent
Mazeppa..................................................................................Ellen Peterson
Electra................................................................................Jennifer Valentine
Agnes/Showgirl...................................................................Jennifer L. Gasser
Marjorie May/Showgirl.........................................................Melissa Prusinski
Miss Crachit/Delores/Showgirl...................................................Kristin Palson
Thelma/Maid/Showgirl............................................................Kimberly Palson
Pop/Mr. Goldstone/Cigar/Phil......................................................Joseph Siriani
Uncle Jocko/Weber/Kringelein/Pastey/Bougeron-Cochon......Geoffrey P. Burns
Newsboys.........................................................Donal Magrane/Andy Blesser

Orchestra
Keyboards........................Jonathan Goldberg
Trumpet..............................Paul Perfetti
Trumpet/Horn/Trombone.............Harlan Feinstein
Reeds...................................Louis Toth
Reeds..................................Ray Taranto
Percussion...........................Wendy Baisley

Director Spiro Veloudos has a habit of making old shows new again. In "Gypsy" he concentrated on the Arthur Laurents story, with no tricks. The grit and disappointment and determination of the vaudeville circuit, the abrasively pushy stage-mother bravely forcing her daughters to live her own dream of stardom, and their very human sweet-bitter interactions along the bumpy road to fame actually manage to upstage Jule Styne's score and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics. It's even possible early that Maryann Zschau's irrepressible Mamma Rose will force her Baby June (Sophie Rich) to the top.

Veloudos contrasts Rose's blind ambition with the ever-identical "act" in all its schmaltzy, tawdry hokum. At one point the kids who introduced that "three-and-a-half-foot sensation Baby June" dance off and a chorus outgrowing their teens in identical costumes dances on to introduce a "five-and-a-half-foot sensation". Ever one of Mamma Rose's "new" acts, despite costume changes, despite the addition of a dancing cow, despite her raucous cheerleading, turn out to be variations on the same uninspired themes.

The story is so engrossing that the slow emergence of Rose's tall daughter (the "untalented" front-end to that cow) as a sudden, sizzling headliner in burlesque is a fresh, believable surprise. Laura Schweitzer looks quietly nondescript in The Act, bumblingly, hesitantly awkward in her first solo turn, and glorious as the famous Gypsy Rose Lee commanding top-dollar at Minsky's and deserving every penny of it.

But tucked inside this backstage bio is a tender, frustrated love story. Frank Gayton comes out of comfortable retirement as a candy-seller to become Mamma Rose's soft-hearted, supportive but frustrated agent, and always-potential third husband. Gayton and Zschau forgive each other's foibles and comfort each other's disappointments. When her daughter and star deserts The Act (to become June Havoc) and rather than quit show-business Rose dreams up a whole new Act built around Louise, the incredulous apprehension in Schweitzer's and Gayton's faces belie Mamma's enthusiastic insistence that "Everything's Comin' Up Roses".

Because, though Arthur Laurents' book is based on her autobiography, it's not Gypsy Rose but Mamma Rose who is the show, warts and all. And Maryann Zschau will make you forget that anyone else has ever played the role. That's because though she can belt out a song or soften a ballad (the brief reprise of "Small World breaks hearts) and dances, it's her uncompromising honesty in acting the role that makes the show sing.

But if that were all, this would not be a Spiro Veloudos production. Though seventeen actors take on 28 different roles, every character gets a moment to shine, from the forlorn Molly Harrison's Baby Louise to Eileen Nugent, Ellen Peterson and Jennifer Valentine as strippers with pride and magnanimity. They leave no holes in the fabric of the story, because each is a person instead of a type. And let's not forget Jonathan Goldberg's tiny, mighty pit-band sounding bigger than they have any right to since there are only six of them.

Even the weather co-operated, giving The Publick Theatre an excellent week-end for outdoor performances. As I walked home along the Charles after the show I watched a full moon struggle slowly upward out of a cocoon of ragged, dirty-bottomed cloud until it stood, alone at last, rising into the clear night sky. And later, after I'd crossed Anderson Bridge and I looked again at that solo sphere that looked --- well, like the round blue-gelled leko I'd mistaken for the moon during the show --- it had risen higher and sowed sparkling theatrical rhinestones on the river, and I wished every one of them could grow into a star. There's nothing like a wonderful musical for making the ordinary world beautiful to look at.

Love,
===Anon.


"Gypsy" (till 3 September)
THE PUBLICK THEATRE
Christian A. Herter Park, Soldiers Field Road, BOSTON
1(617) 782-5425

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