A Pioneer Woman Without a Frontier
Say what you will about the manipulative Rose Hovik—the complex character and commanding force at the center of “Gypsy: A Musical Fable,” the 1959 Arthur Laurents book with music by Jules Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim that has its origins in the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee—she proves that very little will stand in the way of her personal ambitions. Whether it’s stealing from her father for the next big break, relentlessly pushing her two daughters into the business that passed her by or leaning on everyone around her whenever necessary, Rose is the engine that’s barreling down the track. Never giving up, whatever the cost. It’s all the stuff of epic musical theatre, and the fruit of a historic collaboration, that opened Wednesday at Marriott Theatre Lincolnshire in a bright, brassy and entertaining production, directed by Amanda Dehnert and choreographed by Stephanie Klemons.
The show features Broadway veterans and vocal powerhouses, Lucia Spina and Nathaniel Stampley as Rose Hovik and manager/companion Herbie, who ‘pool their resources by joining forces” to create a vaudeville show around Rose’s daughters Louise played by Lauren Maria Medina and June played by newcomer Tori Heinlein. Always the star in Rose’s dream of greatness, Heinlein’s June leads an endearing group of youngsters in the early years of the act, to the exclusion of the insecure and vulnerable Louise, who lacks the confidence of her sister and is earnestly along for the ride.
That is until the girls age out of the act and Rose’s attention, and livelihood, turns to making Louise star of the show. Medina’s transformation from little Dutch to the scintillating Gypsy in the show’s climax is as electrifying as Spina’s skillful and emotional “Rose’s Turn,” a transformation all her own from “a pioneer woman without a frontier” to the self-realization that there is more to life than unkept promises and broken dreams.
The ensemble is layered deep with exceptional talent. J’Kobe Wallace’s Tulsa offers up a smooth and savvy song and dance routine to “All I Need Is the Girl.” Elin Joy Seiler (Baby June) and Milla Liss (Young Louise) are picture perfect in the opening of “Let Me Entertain You” as are all the youthful performers. Cedric Young, Joseph Primes and Steve O’Connell are among many in the ensemble who stand out in supporting roles.
But things come to an uproarious full stop in the free-wheeling performances of Emily Rohm (Tessie Tura), Leeanna Rubin (Electra) and Sawyer Smith (Mazeppa) who guide the wholesome Louise in the hilarious, tear-inducing dressing room number “You Gotta Have A Gimmick.” Between Rohm’s blooming butterfly in flight replete with spinning tassels, Rubin’s incandescent aura and the sheer magnificence of Smith’s statuesque presence in one of Theresa Ham’s inspired costume designs, it’s sheer bliss!
Collette Pollard’s scenic design is decked out from top to bottom in vaudeville flair that frames the action—and defines the journey incorporating Anthony Churchill’s unique media design—punctuated by Jesse Klug’s stellar lighting design, particularly during Gypsy’s coming of age. Music director Ryan T. Nelson and Marriott’s superb orchestra, conducted by Brad Haak, deliver every note from the fast-paced company numbers to Spina’s dynamic performance of the show’s iconic Act I closer “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” to make “Gypsy” a musical night to remember.