Long Islander Review: Engeman’s ‘Gypsy’ Cast Is Broadway Quality

The Long Islander

Janee Law

September 28, 2017

 

The John W. Engeman Theater’s rendition of “Gypsy” instantly sets the scene, as the orchestra opens up the production with a jazzy introduction that brings audience members back to the 1920s.

Directed by Igor Goldin and choreographed by Drew Humphrey, “Gypsy” depicts the rags-to-riches transformation of Louise (played by Austen Danielle Bohmer), an awkward girl who rose to national prominence as burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee.

The production brings energetic musical numbers, comedy and sincerity.

The journey is ruled by Rose (played by Michele Ragusa), who pushes her daughters Louise and June (played by Charity Van Tassel) into show business in an effort to live vicariously through them.

The show begins, however, with younger versions of the sisters, Baby June (played by Kyla Carter) and Baby Louise (played by Amanda Swickle), before jumping years ahead in the story.

Ragusa’s performance as the fame-hungry mother is mesmerizing. Her passion to push her daughters into show business intensifies throughout the production, climbing up the ladder that will lead her to discontent and awareness.

Audience member Sharon Boyle, of Sayville, said after last Thursday’s show that Rose was her favorite character of the night, praising Ragusa for her “strong voice” and “big personality.”

Another member of the audience Tove Abrams, of West Sayville, said the talent of the cast is of the same quality as that found on Broadway.

Abrams continued, “What impressed me was the scenic design. I very much enjoyed the transitions. It’s very well thought out and it moves the whole plot along very quickly.”

Her favorite scene of the night was “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” in which burlesque performers Mazeppa (played by Jennifer Collester Tully); Electra (played by Amber Carson); and Tessie Tura (played by Suzanne Mason) demonstrate their individual burlesque acts to Louise.

The number was packed with energy and drew plenty of laughs from the audience.

Another iconic scene, the energetic tap dancing number “All I Need Is The Girl,” comes in the first act of the production. Tulsa (played by Brian Thomas Hunt) and Louise deliver the number, conveying the dreams of the young characters, and hinting at Louise’s anticipated transformation.

Bohmer, who plays Louise, said after the show the scene is one of her favorites.

“I love that whole sequence,” Bohmer said. “I think that’s the first moment that [Louise] feels like a woman and that somebody really looks at her as a woman so I love doing that scene.”

She added that playing Louise is a dream role for her.

“She is one of the best well-written arcs in all of musical theater history,” Bohmer said. “She goes on quite the journey so to be able to go from zero to 100 really quickly has been awesome.”

Bohmer added that she enjoyed the second half of the production, working closely with Ragusa, to convey an intense, but caring, mother-daughter relationship.

“Working with Michele has just been a master class,” Bohmer said. “Michele is brilliant and getting to learn from her and work with her every night is the greatest gift I could have ever been given.”

 

Read online: http://www.longislandernews.com/life-and-style/engemans-gypsy-cast-is-broadway-quality

Times of Huntington-Northport Review: ‘Gypsy’ shines at the Engeman

Times of Huntington-Northport

Heidi Sutton

September 28, 2017

 

Since its Broadway debut in 1959, “Gypsy” has often been referred to as one of the greatest musicals of all time, with such classic hits as “If Mama Was Married,” “Together Wherever We Go,” “Let Me Entertain You” and everyone’s favorite, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Now the award-winning show arrives at the Engeman Theater in Northport through Oct. 29 and lives up to its reputation in spades.

With book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “Gypsy” is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of the 1930s burlesque star Rose Louise Horvick, known professionally as Gypsy Rose Lee. Her mother Rose has big dreams for her youngest daughter June (actress June Havoc) to make it in show biz and drags both sisters around the country to perform their Vaudeville act, which isn’t very good.

Rose hires dancers and an agent, Herbie, to help them get gigs, but the act never gets off the ground. When June has finally had enough and runs off to elope with one of the dancers, Rose turns her attention to the less talented Louise. It is then that the audience realizes that Rose is the one craving stardom and Louise is just a pawn to achieve that goal.

With a totally revised show, Louise and her dancers mistakenly end up in a burlesque house. With not a dime to their name, Rose convinces Louise to give stripping a try and Gypsy Rose Lee is born. Now famous all over the world, Louise eventually tires of her mother’s controlling ways and breaks away, leaving Rose devastated and alone in the final scene.

Directed by Igor Golden, the large cast features Michele Ragusa as Rose, Austen Danielle Bohmer as Louise, Charity Van Tassel as June and John Scherer as Herbie. From her first solo, “Some People,” to the finale, “Rose’s Turn,” Ragusa shines in the role of the quintessential stage mother. Last seen on the Engeman stage as the scheming Mrs. Meers in “Thoroughly Modern Millie,” Ragusa can easily take a seat alongside her predecessors Ethel Merman, Bernadette Peters, Bette Midler and Tyne Daly.

Bohmer, making her debut on the Engeman stage, gives a rousing performance as Louise. Watching her transform from a shy, awkward teenager to a burlesque star is truly remarkable. Though only seen in the first act, Van Tassel has her work cut out for her as the star of a failing Vaudeville act that sometimes includes a cow. Scherer is brilliant as Herbie and quickly garners sympathy from the audience as he patiently waits for years for Rose to marry him, only to walk away in the end.

There are too many wonderful performances to mention, and the entire ensemble is terrific — particularly when delivering Drew Humphrey’s clever choreography. But special mention must be made of Jennifer Collester Tully, Suzanne Mason and Amber Carson for their showstoppping rendition of “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” and to Bryan Thomas Hunt as Tulsa who gives an incredible performance in “All I Need Is the Girl.”

The set, designed by Nate Bertone, is impeccable and lighting by Zach Blane is brilliantly executed. Kudos to Kurt Alger for capturing America’s fading Vaudeville circuit with beautifully detailed costumes and to the six-member powerhouse band led by Alex Bart that tie the show together in a neat little package that is not to be missed.

Let the Engeman entertain you. Go see “Gypsy.”

 

Read online: http://tbrnewsmedia.com/theater-review-gypsy-shines-engeman/

Newsday Review: Let Engeman’s ‘Gypsy’ entertain you, yes sir

Newsday

Barbara Schuler

September 20, 2017

 

A wise director knows not to mess with “Gypsy.”

The classic musical — some think it’s one of the best ever written — that opened last week at the John W. Engeman Theater in Northport stays true to the vision that Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents first set down in 1959. The story of the ultimate stage mother determined to make at least one of her daughters a star unfolds seamlessly under the direction of Igor Goldin, while highlighting some of Broadway’s most loved songs — “Let Me Entertain You,” “Together Wherever We Go” and the plaintive first-act closer “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”

From the moment she enters with that famous line, “Sing out, Louise,” echoing from the back of the theater, Michele Ragusa as Mama Rose has you in her grip. Following in impressive footsteps — Ethel Merman, the first Rose, was followed by, among others, Angela Lansbury, Patti LuPone and Bernadette Peters — Ragusa is a wall of steel in portraying the steadfast determination required to get her daughters top billing, or any billing, really, on the vaudeville circuit.

The act moves from theater to theater (Nate Bertone’s evocative set could be backstage anywhere), but it’s a dud and the girls well know it. That doesn’t stop Rose from her relentless pushing, first with June (played by an adorable Kyla Carter as a child, then a somewhat grown up Charity Van Tassel), later with Louise (a delightfully dour Amanda Swickle as a kid, an older Austen Danielle Bohmer in a beautifully nuanced performance).

When in the second act Louise and her “Toreadorables” mistakenly end up in a burlesque house, Rose seems ready to throw in the towel and marry the ever-suffering agent Herbie (John Scherer). But the resident strippers — Suzanne Mason, Jennifer Collester Tully and Amber Carson in Kurt Alger’s witty costumes for the always showstopping “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” — have given her an idea. Next thing you know, the wedding isn’t happening and Louise undergoes a remarkable metamorphosis, from awkward showgirl whose “strip” consists of shyly dropping a single strap of her gown to one of the most famous burlesque stars of all time (the musical is inspired by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee.)

When, at the end, Mama takes the stage for the heartbreaking “Rose’s Turn,” you finally understand her years of torment, of trying to live through her children. “Mama’s lettin’ go,” she sings. But, truthfully, you don’t believe that for a minute.

Broadway World Review: ‘Let GYPSY At The Engeman Entertain You’

Broadway World

Melissa Giordano

September 20, 2017

 

Northport’s exquisite John W. Engeman Theatre does it again with a stellar version of the iconic Laurents/Styne/Sondheim musical Gypsy. The Tony winner runs at the Long Island venue through October 29th excellently directed by Engeman vet Igor Goldin boasting an outstanding cast. And I know you are probably saying that there are showings of this everywhere you look. However, when you have a production like this, it definitely warrants another visit.

First on Broadway in 1959, the tale, set in the early 1920’s into the 1930’s, is based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. We follow Louise, the role Gypsy is based on, as she goes from a gawky teen performing in kiddie acts to a burlesque icon. It focuses on her relationship with her mother, Rose, who has gained a reputation for being a difficult manager and stage mom. Beneath the commanding persona, Rose’s heart is in the right place as she wants to protect her daughters – Louise and June – from the mean side of the show business machine.

Austen Danielle Bohmer, in her Engeman debut, superbly portrays Louise. Particularly impressive is her overall transformation from the awkward early years to the time she begins burlesque as a mature young woman. A terrific voice and keen sense of what the role needed make her a natural. And Michele Ragusa is thrilling as Mama Rose. Certainly a favorite among the enthusiastic audience is her powerful renditions of the classic numbers “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Rose’s Turn”. Additionally, John Scherer is a highlight portraying Herbie, Mama’s boyfriend and sometimes manager for the girls. Indeed his performances of “Small World” and “You’ll Never Get Away From Me” with Ms. Ragusa receive thunderous applause.

The entire large cast is truly extraordinary as is the clever creative team. Nate Bertone‘s set is smart and seems easily movable for seamless scene changes (though possible excessive visibility of those doing the changes might prove a little distracting). This is enhanced stunningly by Zach Blane‘s lighting and Laura Shubert‘s top notch sound design. And Kurt Alger‘s costumes shine in the visually gorgeous production. Special kudos, too, to Music Director Alec Bart who leads the wonderful live orchestra.

And so, Gypsy is undoubtedly another hit for the Engeman. A classic of musical theatre and an absolutely boffo cast make for an entertaining night of theatre.

 

Read online: https://www.broadwayworld.com/long-island/article/BWW-Review-Let-GYPSY-At-The-Engeman-Entertain-You-20170920

Theatre Guide Review: Gypsy

The Theatre Guide

Kristen Weyer

September 19, 2017

 

Let them entertain you, and go see Gypsy at the John W. Engeman Theater.  With a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, this musical was suggested by the memoirs of legendary burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee.  It contains such hits as “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”, “Together Wherever We Go” and of course, “Let Me Entertain You”.  Directed here by Igor Goldin, Gypsy is a historical romp through the vaudeville and burlesque scenes of the 1920s-1930s.

Gypsy, while based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, has less to do with burlesque than you might expect.  Rather it is more a story of the quintessential stage mother. Rose, marvelously played by Michele Ragusa, has two daughters, Louise and June. Her star and lead is “Baby June” who gets most of the attention and affection, while Louise is relegated to being her sister’s supporting cast on stage, and off.  Taking us from the beginning of Rose’s and her girls’ struggles in 1920s vaudeville through the changing times in the early 1930s, we are privy to the ups and downs of their relationships both professional and private.  Though when one of her girls is finally the “Star” she dreamed of, it is not in the fashion any of them ever imagined.

Michele Ragusa is an incredible force to be reckoned with as Rose.  Her brilliant characterization and vocals, combined with a fabulous crazy look in her eyes has you believing every line. Show manager/love interest Herbie, is fantastically portrayed by John Scherer.  His easygoing manner and charming smile have you falling for him from his first scene.

Austen Danielle Bohmer gives a stunning performance as Louise.  Her lovely vocals, and subtle expressions create an outstanding character.  In the beginning, her meek and mild-mannered persona tugs at your heart strings, and then in an almost bittersweet change, she transforms in to the confident and alluring Gypsy.  It is the end of sweetness and innocence, but the beginning of strength and independence. Don’t worry, you won’t get an eyeful of more than you’re supposed to.  The spotlights come up just in time.

Kyla Carter as Baby June, and Amanda Swickle as Baby Louise, both did a wonderful and entertaining job.  Charity Van Tassel as grown-up June has a sweet voice, and great comedic timing.

The clever rotating archway of Nate Bertone’s set was very effective in creating, and portraying the numerous varying locations in this musical.  Combined with the delightful costumes by Kurt Alger, and great sound from designer Laura Shubert, they assist in transporting the audience to another era.  A couple of excellent lighting effects were employed by designer Zach Blane.  Particularly appealing are the slow-motion strobe light portraying the aging process, and the perfect uses of light and shadow throughout.  The orchestra under conduction from Alec Bart performed magnificently.

While definitely not for all audiences, Gypsy is a fun and intriguing look at how far one woman will go to push fame onto her children, whether they want it or not.  With music, fabulous acting, and yes, stripping, this show is most certainly…entertaining.

 

Read online: http://thetheatreguide.com/2017/09/19/gypsy-john-w-engeman/

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