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Washington DC by Susan Berlin

Gypsy

Also see Susan's reviews of The Pajama Men: Just the Two of Each of Us,
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and The Lyons


Maria Rizzo, Sherri L. Edelen and Mitchell Hébert
Gypsy is one of the crown jewels of the musical theater, with an iconic central role and songs ("Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Let Me Entertain You") that have become part of American culture. In Joe Calarco's production of the musical at Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia, Sherri L. Edelen offers up a diamond-like performance as Madame Rose, the ultimate stage mother: by turns she reveals the character's bumptious humor, her charm, her talent for velvet-gloved manipulation, and the underlying drive for success and recognition that keeps her going.

Any company presenting the 1959 musical by Arthur Laurents (book), Jule Styne (music), and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) has to compete with the legend of Jerome Robbins' original direction and choreography and Ethel Merman's galvanic performance as Rose. (However, the show lost the Tony Award for Best Musical to The Sound of Music and Fiorello!, which tied.) Four subsequent Broadway revivals have kept the work visible, most recently in the stunning 2008 production with Patti LuPone.

Rather than trying to dazzle the audience with elaborate staging, Calarco has opted for a streamlined physical production that takes its visual cues from the world of vaudeville. Scenic designer James Kronzer has turned the cozy MAX Theatre into an early 20th-century setting of paneled wood stage boxes, brick walls papered with ancient theatrical posters, and footlights. Even the domestic scenes appear with the help of two-dimensional flats on rolling easels.

Calarco, along with choreographer Karma Camp, understands the manic energy that drives Rose, and by extension the daughters she shepherds into stardom: Baby June (Erin Cearlock) sells herself onstage with an unnerving, wide-mouthed smile, which calcifies into Dainty June's (Nicole Mangi) calculated squeal and helium-high voice. On the other hand, Baby Louise (Ellen Roberts) realizes early that her place in the act is to be as invisible as possible; the adult Louise (Maria Rizzo) doesn't emerge from her shell and blossom into burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee until she can make direct contact with her audience.

Mitchell Hébert provides a warm, reassuring presence as Herbie, the agent who smooths over Rose's eccentricities. Standouts in smaller roles are Vincent Kempski as Tulsa, the chorus boy with big dreams, and the uproarious trio of small-time strippers: Mazeppa (Donna Migliaccio with a tough attitude and a trumpet), Tessie Tura (Sandy Bainum, dainty despite her surroundings), and Electra (Tracy Lynn Olivera, wide-eyed and vague).

Frank Labovitz's costumes and Chris Lee's lighting design enhance the sense of theater as life. Music director Jon Kalbfleisch gets a full sound out of his 10 musicians.

Signature Theatre
Gypsy
December 17th - January 26th, 2014
Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Suggested by the Memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee
Uncle Jocko: Steven Cupo
Georgie: Samuel Edgerly
Stagehand: Gannon O'Brien
Mothers: Carolyn Cole, Alyssa Gagarin
Balloon Girl: Grace Doughty
Eugene: Ethan Miller
Baby June: Erin Cearlock
Baby Louise: Ellen Roberts
Rose: Sherri L. Edelen
Chowsie: Minnie Tina Turner Fogarty
Pop: Dan Manning
Newsboys: Ethan Miller, John Ray, Eli Schulman
Weber: Steven Cupo
Herbie: Mitchell Hébert
June: Nicole Mangi
Louise: Maria Rizzo
Tulsa: Vincent Kempski
L.A.: Gannon O'Brien
Yonkers: Samuel Edgerly
Angie: Joseph Tudor
Kringelein: Dan Manning
Mr. Goldstone: Steven Cupo
Miss Cratchitt: Alyssa Gagarin
Agnes: Carolyn Cole
Marjorie May: Alyssa Gagarin
Cigar: Dan Manning
Pastey: Steven Cupo
Tessie Tura: Sandy Bainum
Mazeppa: Donna Migliaccio
Electra: Tracy Lynn Olivera
Renée: Carolyn Cole
Phil: Dan Manning
Bourgeron-Cochon: Steven Cupo
Dance Captain: Nicole Mangi
Directed by Joe Calarco
Choreography by Karma Camp
Music direction by Jon Kalbfleisch
MAX Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave.
Arlington, VA 22206
Ticket Information: 703-820-9771 or 1-800-955-5566 or www.signature-theatre.org


Photo: Teresa Wood


-- Susan Berlin


Also see the Current Theatre Season Calendar for D.C.



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