Monday, September 19, 2016

Theater Review: Gypsy -- Music Theatre of CT

Kirsti Carnahan and Kate Simone. Photo: Joe Landry

Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Arthur Laurents
Directed by Kevin Connors
Music Theatre of Connecticut
Through Sept. 25

What's It All About?

Well, it is the great American musical tale based on the memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee about a stage mother named Rose (Kirsti Carnahan ) who forces her daughters, Louise (Kate Simone) and June (Carissa Massaro) to perform a terrible vaudeville act in the hopes of making June a star.  Rose strings along manager Herbie (Paul Binotto) with the promise of connubial bliss some day, but having had two failed marriage already, Rose's ambitions are all for the act which keeps June a the center of the same act despite the fact that she has grown way beyond the age of 10. Eventually Rose makes some changes, adding a couple of orphan boys, Tulsa (Joe Grandy) and Yonkers (Chris McNiff) to back June up as "newsboys" and she finally achieves her dream of having the act perform on the Orpheum Circuit, but her dreams are shattered when June and Tulsa elope and leave to start their own act.

Rose then turns her attention to making the not-so-talented Louise into a star. The result is Gypsy Rose Lee.

What Are the Highlights?

That score! Well played by a four-man band under the direction of Music Director Thomas Martin Conroy, it gives us the classics “Some People,” “Small World,” “Little Lamb,” “You’ll Never Get Away From Me,” “Everything’s Coming up Roses,” “Together, Wherever We Go,” and “Let Me Entertain You.”

Carnahan is not as bold and belty as most Roses (think Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, Rosalind Russell and Bette Midler, who all have played this quintessential stage mom), but it works as she makes the role her own. We get a better sense of Rose as a mother and as a woman. Binotto's Herbie doesn't seem as steamrolled as a result and we have an opportunity to appreciate the depth of character achieved by the actor.

The small space at MTC, sparcely staged by Carl Tallent, makes the production more intimate. Skilled sound design, though uncredited, allows us to hear the lyrics without being blasted by the instruments.

Jodi Stevens steals the scene as the secretary to an entertainment mogul auditioning June and her entourage and as Mazeppa, a trumpet playing stripper along with crowd pleasers Electra (Marca Leigh) and Tessie tura (Jeri Kansas).

The kids also delight: Abby Sara Dahan (Baby June); Jonah Frimmer (Young Yonkers); 
Charlie Pelletier (Young Tulsa) and Natalie Steele (Baby Louise).

What Are the Lowlights?

None worth mentioning.

More information:
Let Gypsy entertain you through Sept. 25 at Music Theatre of Connecticut, 509 Westport Ave, (behind Nine West), Nowalk. Performances are Friday at 8 pm, Saturday at 4  and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets are $30-$55:; 203-454-3883.

Additional casting:
Brittany Cattaruzza (Margaret May, others)
Peter McClung (Father, others)
Abigial Root (Agnes & Others)

Additional credits:
Costume Design by Diane Vanderkroef; Wigs by Peggi De La Cruz; Lighting Design by Michael Blagys; Choreography by Becky Timms.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)
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