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.