During a recent silvery moonlit evening, terrifying rumors about a roving mountain lion in Winchester didn’t deter diehard theater fans attending nextdoor theater company’s production of popular musical, “Gypsy”. The show and those rumors are gone now, but both left lasting memories.
Boston headliner Kerry Dowling’s blockbuster portrayal of Mama Rose, stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc’s pushy stage mother, spurred a talented cast of 19 through their upbeat paces. They belted out Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim’s big numbers, despite the four-piece orchestra’s thin - and at times - sour notes.
And Magda Aliberti’s costumes ranged from regal to ragged. Some were poorly constructed and ugly, resembling consignment store rejects. As cute children, teens and adults kicked, wiggled, tapped and marched through choreographer David Costa’s smooth moves, their buttons popped, and velcro-lined seams expanded open, looking shoddy. In contrast, Dowling’s clothing and Marge Dunn’s stunning transformation from ugly duckling older sister Louise to glamorous, grown-up star, Gypsy Rose Lee, were elegant. Adorned in fun costumes, while performing their hit number, “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” were veteran strippers Tessa Tura (Caylin Mullin) in a gossamer butterfly get-up; Mazeppa (Sarah Jones) in her ancient Roman soldier metal uniform, helmet, and trumpet; and Electra (Kira Lew), whose costume was illuminated with tiny lights.
Those few costume malfunctions and musical sour notes didn’t diminish some of the cast’s finest and funniest scenes. Haven Pereira as Baby June, Mama Rose’s great white vaudeville hope for fame and stardom, and Allison Russell as Dainty June, her teen-aged, older version, sang, shrieked cartwheeled, twirled, tapped, and did full splits like olden-day stage professionals, garnering appreciative applause.
Directed by Sarajane Mullins Pompeo, Dowling’s portrayal of tough-edged Mama Rose has a more loving, dedicated, softer image. She’s determined to make sure her daughters’ lives are better than hers. Mama Rose missed her shot at stardom, so she pushed hard and strong to get her daughters into the limelight. Rose luckily met kindly, candy salesman-former agent Herbie, who was instantly smitten with Rose and becomes her right-hand man, booking the kids into the vaudeville and stage circuit wherever he can. Veteran actor Doug Jabara wears his heart on his sleeve, especially in romantic numbers “Small World” and “You’ll Never Get Away From Me,” but leaves dejectedly when Rose ignores her promise of marrying him and their living happily ever after with Louise. Instead, Rose pushes Louise into the seedy world of burlesque, but with a different image - as a lady.
So maybe everything didn’t come up roses and lollipops at nextdoor theater, but they accomplished their goal - to entertain us - and for a few hours, we forgot our winter woes. And did I mention the mountain lion?