Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
Also see Mark's review of Next to Normal
Based on the original memoirs of famed ecdysiast (stripper) Gypsy Rose Lee, Gypsy tells about the hard scrabble life of child performers June (Gigi Hausman) and Louise (Emmy Brett) Hovick and their overly intrusive stage mother Rose (Natalie Blalock), whose name is forever linked to overbearing stage mothers around the world.
Considered by many as a nearly perfect show, Gypsy combines great music and lyrics, a strong relatable storyline, solid dance numbers that propel the story, and humor that is easily recognized. It is real people in real situations.
Divorced mother of two girls sets out to find fame and fortune in spite of the odds. Rose will simply not take no for an answer and will bulldoze her way through stage managers, secretaries, booking agents, and theater owners. Her hapless daughters, boyfriend and agent Herbie (Allen O'Reilly), and small troupe of male dancers follow in Rose's wake across the country as they fight their way up the vaudeville ladder of success. When June (the talent of the act) suddenly leaves to become an actress, taking their star dancer Tulsa (Enrique Miguel) with her, Mama forces Louise into the spotlight with an all female troupe (The Toreadorables).
How does Beck Center's attempt at this classic stand up? Strictly speaking, not as well as it could. On the plus side, Beck Center should be applauded for its attempt to challenge itself. Certain past productions can certainly be deemed "downtown worthy." In the case of their Gypsy, the choreography by Martin Cespedes expertly channels the dance sequences originally designed by Jerome Robbins. Larry Goodpaster's musical direction and 16-piece orchestra bring all of the razzmatazz needed for the brassy musical numbers. The set design by Aaron Benson is an integral part of the show, combined with Trad Burns' exceptional lighting. Even the sometimes errant sound system is brought under control by sound designer Angie Hayes. These elements save the production.
As for the cast, for the most part they put forth strong performances but seem to be in need of additional instruction. Rather than the action flowing from scene to scene, there seems to be a series of jumps and starts along with pauses that break the mood. There is also a strobe light sequence (as the little performing girls and boys are replaced by adult actors) that could be shortened considerably for the comfort of the audience members. The ending number, with Rose singing "Rose's Turn," turns out to be anticlimactic.
Notables are Allen O'Reilly as Herbie, Rose's long suffering boyfriend, and Emmy Brett as Louise, who blooms from a shy and awkward Louise to the vivacious Gypsy Rose Lee. Enrique Miguel as Tulsa (June's romantic interest) performs a sensational dance number. As Rose, Natalie Blalock has the brassy dialogue down pat in the speaking parts, but at times she over-sings the lyrics, resulting in what could be construed as being slightly off key. The show's director is Scott Spence.
While not up to their usual high standards, the Beck Center's production of Gypsy is still worth the price of the ticket due to the choreography and orchestration. Many will love the show, while others will wish for what might have been.
Gypsy, through August 12, 2018, at Beck Center for the Arts, Mackey Theater, 17801 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood OH. Tickets may be purchased online at www.beckcenter.org or by calling 216-521-2540.