What a fantastic show this was tonight from a renowned Musical Theatre Club that, for some reason, I have never seen before. One thing is certain though, it will not be my last time watching this company, who tonight produced a highly polished performance of a professional standard. There was a very strong cast overall, plus some exceptionally good principals.
Gypsy was first performed on Broadway in 1959 and has music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurent.
It is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee the famous striptease artist, and focuses on her mother, Rose whose name has become synonymous with “the ultimate show business mother.” It follows the dreams and efforts of Rose to raise two daughters to perform onstage and casts an affectionate eye on the hardships of show business life.
The musical contains many songs that have become popular standards, including “Everything’s Coming up Roses”, “Together (Wherever We Go)”, “Small World”, “Let Me Entertain You”, “All I Need Is the Girl”, and “Rose’s Turn”.
The part of Momma Rose was played by the wonderful Liz Berrisford. She ended Act 1 with a brilliant rendition of the well loved standard Every Things Coming Up Roses: this was a real show stopper and a thrilling experience. Her dynamic performance was thoroughly engaging and beautifully acted throughout, putting her up there with the many others who have played this powerful and demanding role. The intensity of her passion to live her own dreams and make a star of one of her daughters – at any expense -was expertly characterised. Liz managed to retain our sympathy even at her ‘stage mom’ worst, by investing her character with humour and warmth and an irresistible drive.
Lee Costelow played Herbie who falls in love with Rose and then has to put up with her obsession with the theatre. He is an excellent actor, another one who can characterise his performance with an engaging warmth and humanity; he also has a lovely singing voice.
I loved the performances of the youngsters in the first part of Act One, which included some well performed gymnastics from one of the boys. A huge well done to Beth Barber (Baby June) and Lauren Honeysett (Baby Louise) who are both very talented young performers. The other young performers were Harriet Woodward, Charlie Ann Mudge, Matthew Leeming, Luca Anastassiades, Noah Anastassiades, Scott Millar, Tommy Mudge and Charlie Ward. The transition between the children and their adult counterparts was smoothly achieved during a dance number; our delight at the youngsters’ performances was even further increased by their adult counterparts.
Both the adult June played by Anja Palmer and her adult sister Louise played by Lucy Maden are excellent performers. I loved their duet, “If Moma was married.” The adult “boys” all played their respective parts well. Their dancing, when not deliberately ‘off beat’ was very good and their comedy timing was spot on.
Among many good performances I particularly liked “All I need is the girl” performed by Ashley Bright (Tulsa) and Lucy Maden (Louise).
The choreography must have been thoroughly researched to replicate the dances of the period in which the musical is set. It was a delight to sample some old vaudeville routines- complete with pantomime cow- and some stirringly patriotic set pieces, all executed to an impressive standard. Some of the dancing needed to be deliberately bad, which isn’t easy to do; everybody involved must have worked their socks off to achieve all this so convincingly.
Stage management was polished and the sets, ranging from shabby rooms and backstage theatre to swanky hotel rooms and New York stages, was very appropriate. Impressively, no back stage personnel were seen on stage during the performance, at least I didn’t see any. The use of the captions on a front screen between quick changing scenes was extremely effective. This, plus the use of gauze, gave the whole production a filmic quality and helped me to feel totally engaged in the story that was being told. The company, of course, is lucky to be in a theatre that has the facility of flying curtains and set, which was enhanced by the sympathetic lighting (Robert Bridges) and excellent sound (Total Theatre).
The production team led by John R Lewin, the Director, Vicki Hing, the Musical Director, Louise Smith, the choreographer and Adrian Wray, the Stage Manager should be congratulated for producing a hugely enjoyable and slick show of a professional quality. They had a good show, great tunes and a lot of talent, but it is the way they have combined those elements that has given this particular production a touch of magic.
The Orchestra conducted by Vicki Hing was excellent throughout and the balance between it and the performers was perfect.
Everyone who enjoys high quality musical theatre should go and see this production. The audience here tonight gave the cast a very well deserved and prolonged ovation at the end with many including me, standing.
This excellent show continues at The Town Hall Theatre in Loughborough until Saturday.