REVIEW WRITTEN BY CHRISTINA PERRYMAN
Behind every great star is someone pushing them to do or be better — sometimes an agent or publicist, sometimes a friend or family member, more often than not a parent. Stage moms may get a bad rap but after watching “Gypsy,” on stage at Media Theatre under the terrific direction of Jessie Cline, you can kind of see why.
“Gypsy” features music by Jule Styne, lyric by Stephen Soundheim and book by Arthur Laurents. The show, loosely based on the memoirs of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, debuted in 1959. The story focuses on Lee’s mother, Rose, and her determination to make her daughters, Baby June and Louise, stars. Although Rose is more fixated on June, she still makes Louise perform in their vaudeville act, typically as one of the boys. June, who is more extraverted, doesn’t mind the push, while shy Louise would prefer for “Mama” to settle down and make them a home. Rose takes the show on the road and meets Herbie, a former agent who now sells candy. Rose convinces Herbie to manager her act and they become romantically involved. Despite Herbie’s repeated marriage proposals, Rose stays resolute in her determination to make June successful. Rose’s blind ambition eventually alienates June, who elopes with Tulsa, one of the boys in the show and Louise’s secret crush. This forces Rose to notice Louise and revive the act with Louise as the star.
Things come to a head when Rose, refusing to acknowledge that vaudeville is dying, agrees to let the act perform at a burlesque show. She also proposes to Herbie and they plan to marry on the last day of the run. However, when one of the strippers is unable to perform, Rose pushes Louise to take the girl’s place and Gypsy Rose Lee is born. Louise is timid and shy at first but as the show continues and she goes on the road, she becomes an even bigger sensation than Rose imagined. Eventually Louise no longer needs her mother’s help (or approval) and Rose is left alone, forced to ponder her choices and mistakes.
“Gypsy” is led by Krissy Fraelich as Mama Rose. Fraelich, although supported by a great cast, particularly Kelly Briggs as Herbie and Anna Giordano as Louise, carries the show. She has a remarkable voice. Fraelick’s Rose is tough, critical and not very likable. Fraelich allows Rose glimpses of a sweet and caring nature before bottling that up and giving back Rose’s often pushy nature. Briggs, too, has an incredible singing voice. His Herbie is likable and sympathetic. Giordano impressively transforms from mousy, put upon Louise to confident, sultry Gypsy Rose Lee.
Other notable performances include Taylor Elise Rector as June, Avery Sobczak as Tulsa, JP Dunphy filling in for Uncle Jocko, Jennie Eisenhower as Tessie, Jim Conte as Pop, Portia Murphy as Baby June and Amia Shavaun as young Louise. Roger Ricker is great as Mr. Goldstone (he doesn’t say much but his expression are quite funny) and Pastey.
The musical numbers include “Some People,” “Small World,” “If Momma Was Married” (great duet by Giordano and Rector) and “May We Entertain You.”
What can I say about Dann Dunn’s extraordinary choreography? Nothing that hasn’t been said before. The dances were eye-catching and energetic and the tap numbers were impressive.
The show features great lighting by Matthew Miller, sound by Carl Park and costume design by Katie Yamaguchi. Louise’s dresses after transforming into Gypsy were especially lavish. Miller’s scene was creative and intriguing. Music was wonderfully directed by Christopher Ertelt, who also directed the beautiful live orchestra.
IF YOU GO: “Gypsy” runs at Media Theatre, 104 E. State St., Media, through Nov. 1. Show times are 2 p.m. Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays; 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays and 3 p.m. Sundays. Tickets are $42 for adults, $35 for seniors 65 and older, and $25 for children 12 and younger. Strobe lighting is used during the production. For tickets or information, call 610-891-0100 or visit www.mediatheatre.org.