Bridge Players presents this production in the multi-purpose room of Broad Street United Methodist Church. If you are thinking folding chairs, sore “derrieres” and no stage …think again. There IS a stage and the room has been transformed into a café: cushions on the chairs, round tables, black tablecloths, a small silver centerpiece. Great idea! At intermission a sideboard will be set with pitchers of iced water, coffee and hot water along with a nice assortment of teas, including herbals. A courteous wait staff will bring an assortment of desserts ( large portions, too!) to your table. It all makes for a lovely night out. So…on to the show.
The score is dazzling, with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The orchestra does it justice. Diana Dohrmann’s skilled piano playing along with the rest of the orchestra, (John Linder on Bass, Jeffrey Lesser/Eric Sturr playing trumpet, Michael Kozak & Ed Shea on drums) open the show with the usual medley of songs from the show…beautifully played.
Ever since she made her first stage appearance in the larger than life performance by Ethel Merman in 1959, GYPSY’s Madame Rose has been the touchstone of American theater. She is the stage mother from hell. This is a large and complex role. An actor tackling this part needs not only WOW vocals and dance skills but keen comedic timing as well as strong dramatic skills. Gabrielle Affleck who portrays Rose certainly fits the bill. Her performance is wonderful. The voice is great and her dramatic skills are evident, especially in the final number “Rose’s Turn” which requires her to dominate the stage with a variety of personae: she’s a vamp, she’s a child, she’s an angry woman and still manages to dazzle us with her strong vocal abilities. She does get an assist from the dramatic stage setting and some very well done staging courtesy of a very talented and gracious young director, Connor Twigg, who was originally the assistant director (and cast member) but stepped into the role of director midway through rehearsals. Excellent job!
Rose’s objective is to make her daughter June famous, no matter what the cost, so she can experience her fame vicariously. She bills her as “Baby June”, throws in her less attractive daughter, Louise, and a couple of newsboys/farmboys and voila! a vaudeville show. Never mind that vaudeville is a dying venue. Gabrielle Allen is a perfect Baby June. She possesses a good singing voice, good acting skills and delights us with her acrobatics and delivery, especially the little squeal.
Samantha Hughes as young Louise, clumsy and untalented, plays her role well. (We know she can sing and dance.) The transition during the “Military Routine” is great. Loved the strobe lights. Bethany Tesarck portrays Dainty June very convincingly. She is a talented young woman and a good dancer. Kaitlyn Delengowski plays Louise as an awkward, quiet, young woman until the final moments in the show when it all comes together and she blossoms in the final number and backstage with Rose. Mr. Rodney Genwright (playing numerous roles) We do love you! Kendra Cancellieri plays Mazeppa (I applaud you). You took those curves and strutted the heck out of them, and that voice! Stevie Neale as Tessie Tura, has a lovely voice. Lisa Chascsa as Electra has great delivery and they both gals hold their own in “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” with Kendra Cancellieri. One of my favorite numbers of the evening.
This is a large cast with more enthusiastic performers than I have seen in a long time. All did a marvelous job. Thank You all for entertaining me!
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Book by Arthur Laurents
Directed by Connor Twigg
February 4 – 26, 2011
Bridge Players Theatre Company
36 E. Broad Street
Burlington, NJ 08016