‘Gypsy’ reviewed by Gordon the Optom

by September 13, 2015

‘Gypsy’ was a book written by Arthur (Levine) Laurents; he started by writing screenplays such as Hitchcock’s thriller, ‘Rope’. He then moved onto musicals. His musical script output included ‘West Side Story’, and being gay, included his tongue-in-cheek ‘La Cage aux Folles’. He had his third ‘Best Musical’ Tony nomination for this wonderful musical, ‘Gypsy’, which he based on the life of Gypsy Rose Lee. Brooklyn-born Laurents died recently, aged 93. The music is by Jule Styne, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Presented by Stirling Theatre Players, 25 Morris Place, Innaloo, this almost three hour musical can be seen on a Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 8.00 until 26th September. There are Sunday matinees on 13th and 20th at 2.00 pm. It is a long show but time flies.

 

There is little scenery as such, but there are numerous, wonderful props used in the dozen and a half scenes. Michael Stronach, Jack Gordon and Luke Morgan constructed the brightly coloured sets.

The quality lighting and sound came from the reliable team of Ian and Carole Wilson. Sadly the dreaded headsets weren’t quite so reliable, which wasn’t really a problem until the noise of the pelting rain, drowned out the unfazed actors for a couple of minutes, as the storm passed through.

With so many scenes, it was imperative that stage manager, Liz Pemberton and her crew, Cassidy Pemberton, Brad Albert and Christine Pattison perfectly drilled and organised. The changes were slick, silent and speedy; indecisive work could have killed the show’s excellent pace. Well done.

The stage had a deep apron, with a central walkway leading into the first two rows of the audience.

Some of the youngster alternated nights, so both actors have been listed below.

       As in the Vaudeville Shows of the early 1940s, the placards (Annette Underhill) on an easel at the side of the stage were changed before each act.

 

       A middle-aged, frustrated and failed actress, Rose (Claudia Van Zeller) is shamelessly promoting her beautiful, Shirley Temple-like daughter, Baby June (Bella Freeman, Phoebe Tennent), whilst cruelly ignoring her plain, shy, older daughter, Baby Louise (Caitlin Knock, Mia Martin). At Uncle Jocko’s (David Cosgrove) TV talent contest, Rose berates the other young talent – a young clarinettist (Charlie Martin) and a pretty balloon girl (Elle Simpson).

      Back at her Pop’s (Paul Anderson) house, Rose tries to borrow more money for June’s career, but when she fails, she packs up, taking the girls from Seattle to LA, along with some newsboys (incl. Bailey Jubb) that she meets on the way. They all perform in down-market theatres for several years. (There is a clever transition scene where the family grow up and we rejoin them as young adults.)

     Rose meets Herbie (Trevor Preston) who used to be a theatrical agent, but is now barely scraping a living together. Rose’s gang move in with poor Herbie. The youngest has now grown up to become Dainty June (Tania Morrow), and Rose has added a pantomime cow (Jamie-Lee Olson, Kimberley Hill) to the cast of her ‘new’ show.

      Miss Cratchitt (Liz Pemberton) is the kind receptionist of an impresario, Mr Grantziger. She gives Rose’s troupe a chance, however, the adult newsboys Pastey (Terence Oliver Smith), Phil (Steve Anderson), Little Rock (Alex Fleckner) and Georgie (Caleb Stevens) after years of the same act, are now disillusioned actors.

      June quits, and so realising that they are broke Louise, now an attractive young lady (Madeleine Shaw) – who is in love with Tulsa (Liam Gobbert) – offers to join Burlesque. She shares a dressing room with dim Agnes (Tracey Endelbrecht); gone are the attractive showgirls (Olivia Taylor, Simonne Matthews), now Louise is with the old, worn out strippers (Helen Marshall, Paula Sayers, and Janet Brandwood – good on ya).

      What will happen to Louise, her Mum and her siblings?

 

The limitations of this community theatre forced the orchestra into a side room, off the main body of the auditorium, and yet the Musical Director, Krispin Maesalu, miraculously managed to follow the stage action. It was a cold night and so some of the embouchures took a couple of minutes to settle in, but after that, the melodies flowed well. From the soft romantic mood of “You’ll Never Get Away From Me”, to the sleazy striptease music; and the old classics the “Everything’s Coming up Roses” and “Together, Wherever We Go” added to the pleasure. The musicians played beautifully.

The orchestra comprised on reeds, Jeni Stevens, Catherine Motteram, Wayne Griffiths and Talitha (Dunn) Broughton with the brass section Sandra McKenna, Paul Marion, Harry Josland, Jo Coveney, Vanitha Hart, Emma Mondy and Ben Harrison. Josh Haines was on Keyboard, Alfred Bangezhano and drums, KudaKwashe Mateta. The string musicians were Rey Lecciones, Kristy Hughes, Stephanie Hughes and Amanda Reynolds.

Never work with children or animals? The brave – or mad – director, Celeste Underhill and her assistant Cassidy Pemberton did both. Without exception, the children were outstanding; from the one metre of dynamite, Bella, and all of the others, we were fed a meal of magic. They gave us splits – front and sideways – polished choreography (devised by Amber Southall, assisted by the director), and powerful singing with beaming smiles all of the way. Tremendous performances.

Fran Gordon was the wardrobe coordinator – a massive job – but with her costumes team of Carol Hughes, Lyn Hutcheson and Machelle Tennent we had everything from Technicolored dream coats that would make Joseph proud, to the stylish dresses of Rose who seemed to  ‘instantly’ change into 5 outfits in mere seconds – and ended with ‘nothing’. You could hear the husbands asking their wives why they could not get ready as quickly.

Congratulations to Claudia and Madeleine for their extra special performances. Liam and Tania for their dance routines and to Trevor for his moving act. The animals? A veritable zoo, all perfectly behaved. Wow!

When it came to the singing, the leads were powerful and clear. This was a long show but the technical skills, along with the quality performances, made it a must for all of the family – but be warned, book in advance, this show was a sell-out on our night, with NO tickets at the door.

Incidentally, Rose’s ‘strip’ routine was sexy and skilfully performed, but still safe to take your 12-year-old son or Grandma along to see. Thanks for a fun, fast paced, proficient spectacular.