Ever since Gypsy first premiered in 1959, it has been lauded as a great stage musical, one that has important things to say about fame and desire. And, in a time when everyone seems to striving for his “fifteen minutes,” the musical, onstage now through North Carolina Theatre under the direction of Eric Woodall, is still quite relevant.
The story introduces viewers to the indomitable Rose (Christine Sherrill), a divorced mother with two daughters. Rose has a dream of fame and success for her daughters, especially her youngest, Baby June (Skyla I’Lece Woodard), and she will stop at nothing to make sure it comes true.
While trekking her daughters across the country to perform in Vaudeville acts, she meets Herbie (Martin Moran), a one-time agent whom she convinces to act as manager for her daughters. His love for her allows him to be dragged along through their lives, Rose’s daughters getting older and more despondent in the process.
After June, now grown-up and portrayed by the spirited Tanisha Moore, elopes and the Vaudeville Act falls apart, Rose chooses to focus her attention on her older daughter, Louise (Mary Mattison), whose career takes unexpected turns as the musical’s second act unfolds.
While the musical may show its age in some features, such as the slower pacing, the story rings so true, and the characters are so vibrant and real that it still works today. This production’s diverse casting also serves as a nice update, as do the modern special effects used throughout. Another nice touch are the lit signs on the sides of the stage that constantly change to reveal the ever-revolving locations of the characters as they travel in search of fame…or something close to it.
It is these characters who are truly at the heart of Gypsy, and each one shines through this production. Sherrill, with her powerful voice, effectively portrays the hunger, yearning, and desperation of Rose, showing the characters many facets and keeping her from being seen as merely a villain. One of her best moments is her powerful rendition of “Rose’s Turn.” Similarly, Mattison creates a heart-rending version of Louise, poignantly portraying a character that is both innocent and wise beyond her years. Moran is also good here, making his character believably kind and meek and allowing the audience to see Rose in a new way.
The strong cast combined with the flamboyant costume choices and the nice use of color make this musical feel more modern than it is. There’s also the fact that Gypsy itself is a unique choice, one rarely seen onstage these days, which makes it feel like a fresh, bold choice. And, perhaps the most bold statement of all is the fact that this musical, though penned so long ago, still has lessons to teach.
The North Carolina Theatre presents GYPSY: A MUSICAL FABLE, starring Christine Sherrill as Rose and Mary Mattison as Louise, at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 16 and 17 and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18 and 19 in Raleigh Memorial Auditorium in the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, 2 E. South St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27601.
TICKETS: $25.15-$92.15, except $25 college-student tickets.
NCT Box Office: 919-831-6941, ext. 6944, or http://www.nctheatre.com/tickets/season-tickets.
Ticketmaster: 800-745-3000 or https://www.ticketmaster.com/venueartist/115203/741024.
2017-18 SEASON: https://nctheatre.com/show-season/201718-season.
PRESENTER: http://www.nctheatre.com/, https://www.facebook.com/nctheatre, https://twitter.com/nctheatre, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Carolina_Theatre, and http://www.youtube.com/user/nctheatre.
NCT BLOG (Stage Notes): http://www.nctheatre.com/stage-notes.
NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18th, performance.
Gypsy: A Memoir (1957 autobiography): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gypsy:_A_Memoir (Wikipedia).
The Autobiography: https://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Gypsy Rose Lee (Seattle, WA-born burlesque entertainer and striptease artist, nee Rose Louise Hovick, 1911-70): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/gypsy-rose-lee-5987 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0497346/ (Internet Movie Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gypsy_Rose_Lee (Wikipedia).
Gypsy: A Musical Fable (1959 Broadway and 1973 West End musical): http://www.tamswitmark.com/shows/gypsy/ ( Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc.), http://www.julestyne.com/Broadway/Gypsy.php (Jule Styne web page), http://www.sondheim.com/works/gypsy/ (Stephen Sondheim web page), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-show/gypsy-4135 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gypsy_(musical) (Wikipedia).
The Script: http://books.google.com/ (Google Books).
Study Guide: http://www.campbroadway.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Gypsy-6-16-08.pdf (Camp Broadway, LLC).
Jule Styne (music): http://www.julestyne.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/jule-styne-12466 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jule_Styne (Wikipedia).
Stephen Sondheim (lyrics): http://www.sondheim.com/ (official website), https://www.britannica.com/biography/Stephen-Sondheim (Encyclopædia Britannica), http://sondheim.org/ (Stephen Sondheim Society), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/stephen-sondheim-12430 (Internet Broadway Database), and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Sondheim (Wikipedia).
Arthur Laurents (book): https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/arthur-laurents-4307 (Internet Broadway Database) and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Laurents (Wikipedia).
Eric Woodall (New York City director): http://www.ericwoodall.com/ (official website), https://www.ibdb.com/broadway-cast-staff/eric-woodall-90124 (Internet Broadway Database), http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0940106/ (Internet Movie Database), https://www.facebook.com/eric.woodall.98 (Facebook page).
Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/susie-q/. To read more of her writings, click http://www.susiepotter.com and http://www.myspace.com/susiepotter.