As soon as Roxie Quinn sang her first note as "Mama Rose" in Gypsy, I knew that the Warner Theatre in Torrington had another blockbuster on its hands. This young woman played the coveted role of "Mama Rose" to perfection--just brassy enough without heading into Ethel Merman territory. She was surprised to be offered the iconic role at such a young age, but she pulled it off and then some.
I had wonderful complimentary seats to view the first performance of this three hour show. Don't let the length deter you; the entertainment value is worth it and the show never drags. Opening night presented some minor scenery challenges, but on the whole, the set design was well done and very Rick Doyle-ish in scope. The lighting designed by Jameson Willey, was particularly beautiful and the magnificent Warner stage never looked better.
The orchestra, led by Dan Ringuette was absolutely wonderful. The musicians pretty much filled the huge orchestra pit and it excelled at playing what the director calls "one of the best scores of any Broadway musical" that is familiar to all but the youngest theatre lover. The little bit of interaction between the performers and the maestro was very cute. Sheila Waters Fucci worked her magic again as choreographer and the dances were very charming.
I couldn't possibly comment on every member of this large cast but there was not one less-than-strong performance. Some standouts included Jeff Savage as the appropriately paternal "Pop," Doreen Lopez as "Miss Cratchitt" and my castmate Brett Betkowski (as "L.A." and "Phil") who can no longer claim to be a non-dancer. was terrific as the overworked "Pastey." was perfect as "Agnes/Amanda" and had to pretend to be making dancing mistakes. Stephen Petrovich played the featured role of "Tulsa." This very tall young dancer with BFA in musical theatre is an actor on his way up. As the grown up "Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee," Siobhan Fitzgerald was a stunner with her clear as a bell voice.
Mrs. Quinn's husband John played the role of Rose's almost-husband "Herbie." His charm was hard to resist. This husband and wife team actually met during another production of Gypsy and were married on the Warner Stage ten years ago. Emily Diedrich, Jennifer Mazzeo and as the PG rated strippers almost stole the show, and with the strength of everyone else in the cast, that is no small feat. All three of them brought the house down with their "gimmicks." Although their lines require them to say that they have "no talent," rest assured that this is not the case for these three actresses.
Director Tom Chute worked with this massive script, talented kids, and a real little dog and lived to tell the tale. He doubled as the offstage announcer in a clear typecasting move. He definitely helped each one of the performers in the show to shine.
I don't usually end with praise for the costumer, but Renee C. Purdy took the outfits for this show to another level. From the sumptuous gowns for "Gypsy Rose Lee" to the colorful children's pieces to the ever changing wardrobe for "Mama Rose," every ensemble was a knock out. No expense was spared by the management team led by Sharon A. Wilcox. The sheer number of changes would have been daunting for anyone with less experience and design skills than this gifted costumer. The three featured stripper get-ups were each one a masterpiece; Electra's lightup costume got a little special lighting help from Ed Bassett of the Phoenix Stage Company and Al Hathway.
Go see this wonderful production of a great show. I enjoyed it even more than a touring company that I had seen years ago. Given the subject matter, there are a few PG elements, but they were done in good taste. The audience on opening night loved it.
Upcoming Show Dates
Friday, May 18, 2012 at 8:00pm
Saturday, May 19, 2012 at 8:00pm
Sunday, May 20, 2012 at 2:00pm
Join Mama Rose, June and Louise in their trip across the United States during the 1920's, when vaudeville was dying and burlesque was born. The role of Rose has been portrayed on stage and screen by a number of notable Broadway and film stars, including Ethel Merman in the original 1959 Broadway production of Gypsy, Angela Lansbury in the Original London production, and Rosalind Russell in the Warner Bros 1962 film Gypsy; stage revivals have starred Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, and Betty Buckley. Jule Styne's music and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics include the songs "Let Me Entertain You," "Some People, You'll Never Get Away from Me," "If Momma Was Married," "All I Need Is the Girl," "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "You Gotta Get A Gimmick" and "Together Wherever We Go."