Actors’NET Presents GYPSY

by Jean Brenner

Momma Rose (Margo O’Moore) describes how “everything’s coming up roses” in Laurents, Styne and Sondheim’s musical GYPSY, based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. Presented by the Actors’ NET of Bucks County; the show performs July 13 to 29 at the Heritage Center in Morrisville, PA.

Casting, directing, coordinating and mounting a production of GYPSY can be a daunting challenge.

Joe and Cheryl Doyle, director and producer, took it on when they chose to produce this fifty year old musical written by people with well-recognized names: Arthur Laurents (book), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics),and Julie Styne (music.)

More than 30 actors move in, out, and about on the relatively limited stage of the Heritage Center, Morrisville, dealing with limitations of a small back stage and little wing space, all of which requires ingenuity and creativity.

GYPSY is an old story about the same kind of activity that we see on TV today…mothers pushing their kids to become beauty queens, acrobats or sports idols. In this musical is the story of stage mother, Momma Rose, a woman who wanted to have a theatrical career for herself, but didn’t make it, and emotionally excluding all others, she lives through her two girls, Baby Rose and Louise.

She pushes her girls, trying to keep them young looking even as they grow into teenagers, until, finally, she pushes her favored child, Baby Rose, right out the door. At that point, she turns to Louise, cajoling her into a place she doesn’t want to be. But when the right door opens to make some money, Louise takes the challenge and gradually becomes the famous stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee, earning more money than the family has ever experienced while at the same time, causing a rift between her mother and herself as Momma Rose simply will not accept the fact that vaudeville is dead.

Along the way, many people enter their lives: young girls and young boys become part of the act, but they grow up and leave, including one talented guy who falls in love and elopes with Rose, now a young woman.

A suitor loves and supports Momma Rose, but eventually, he, too, leaves, just as did her first three husbands.

Momma Rose tries to inspire her two little daughters “Baby June” (Moriah Tobin, right) and “Baby Louise” (Marissa Marciano, center) in Laurents, Styne and Sondheim’s musical GYPSY, based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee.

The show, which ran just about three hours including intermission on opening night, was an “okay” production. Given the theatre’s restrictions mentioned earlier, GYPSY – and I stress on opening night — was neither really bad nor really good.

Performers in community theatre usually have various levels of experience and ability.  Some of them sing well; some of them act well.  Most will improve during the three weekends of performances.

Most of all, this writer hopes the live musicians will get their act together as the show continues. Individually, there were some good solos – trumpet, flute/piccolo – but many times the music sounded as though the musicians were playing from different scores; often they were ragged on the downbeats.  The responsibility for unity and sound (which was inconsistently loud) belongs to the music director who selects and rehearses the instrumentalists.  A good performance of this wonderful music would have made a remarkable difference.

Having seen GYPSY several times, this writer was anticipating the fun and entertaining second act number by the three strippers.  But it was disappointingly slow, lacking the energy, excitement and exaggeration it should offer. Fifty-year old music is often slow and not too appealing to people today who are accustomed to shows being more up-beat.  Perhaps the tempo of the music and the pace of the show could be increased.

Mazeppa (Wendy Graham-Hugo, left) and Tessie Tura (Susan Fowler) explain that you don’t need talent to succeed in burlesque, but “You Gotta Have a Gimmick,” in Laurents, Styne and Sondheim’s musical GYPSY, based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee.

Having seen some very well done plays at Actors’ Net, I suspect the quality of GYPSY will improve as the run proceeds and as the Doyles clean up the problems which they likely recognize, and they will see that overall pace of the production is accelerated.

Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed by Joe Doyle
Musical Direction by Pat Masterson
July 13 – 29, 2012
Heritage Center
635 N. Delmorr Ave
Morrisville, PA  19067

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