The Theatre Guide
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.