Regional Reviews: Philadelphia
Also see Cameron's review of How to Use a Knife
Rose is the original stage mom, singularly devoted to making her daughters headliners on the vaudeville circuit. June is the effusive and energetic star of the show, and Louise is a devoted if untalented second fiddle. They travel the country in search of work, fame, and the occasional egg roll. A cautionary tale about the danger of projecting our hopes and dreams onto our children (newly relevant in the age of Instagram graduation pictures and live video stream piano recitals), Gypsy tells a powerful story about family and the search for fame.
Director Terrence J. Nolen has assembled an impressive cast for this high energy production. Mary Martello is gut wrenching in the iconic role of Rose, playing the indomitable matron with a frazzled edge of desperation that is simultaneously enraging and sympathetic. Martello cannot belt out the big numbers like others who have played the role, but her performance more than makes up for her vocal limitations. The endearing Caroline Dooner pulls off an impressive transformation as practical and kind hearted Louise. With a sense of warmth and humor, Anthony Heald brings an everyman charm to the role of Rose's love interest Herbie. Malik Akil's (Tulsa) rendition of "All I Need Is the Girl" is spectacular. "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" is another highlight, thanks to Monica Horan (Tessie), Meghan Strange (Electra), and most especially Joilet F. Harris (Mazeppa).
Jenn Rose's cheerful choreography is fun and especially enjoyable during the burlesque sequence in the second act. Thom Weaver's lighting designs are top notch. Costumes by Richard St. Clair are a great asset to production. James Kronzer's set is a bit underwhelming. The projections are odd and distracting and Weaver's lighting designs do most of the heavy lifting.
If you have never seen Gypsy, this is a great opportunity to see it for the first time. If you have seen it, this production may not show you anything new, but it will be a thoroughly enjoyable reminder of what makes this great musical so special.
Gypsy runs through Sunday, June 25, 2017, at the Arden Theatre Company's F. Otto Haas Stage, 40 N. 2nd Street, Old City Philadelphia. For tickets call the box office at 215-922-1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org.