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Review: GYPSY A MUSICAL FABLE at Marriott Theatre

Let me entertain you.

Marriott Lincolnshire’s production of Gypsy opened last night. It runs through October 15. The book is by Arthur Laurents and suggested by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, one of the greatest burlesque performers of all time. Music and lyrics are courtesy of Jule Styne (Funny Girl) and Stephen Sondheim – you may fill in the shows.

This is the “story” of how quiet, shy Louise Hovick became Gypsy Rose Lee pushed by the stage mother of all time, Rose Hovick (Lucia Spina returning to her home area giving a bravura performance). However, before Louise (Gypsy), Rose was sculpting daughter June (Elin Joy Seiler as Baby June and Tori Heinlein as Dainty June in her Marriott debut). We first see Baby June and young Louise (Milla Liss) auditioning in a Seattle vaudeville house.

The girls are not hired so Rose takes them to Los Angeles. While in LA, Rose meets Herbie (Nathaniel Stampley) and convinces him to be their manager. She puts together a new vaudeville act featuring Baby June and Her Newboys. One night in a Chinese restaurant, Herbie proposes to Rose but she is still focused on show business. June and the boys have grown too old to continue the act. One of the boys, Tulsa (J’Kobe Wallace in his show stopping Marriott debut), tells a smitten Louise he is planning to go out on his own. Shortly thereafter, Louise finds a note from June saying she has run off with Tulsa. Herbie again proposes marriage but Rose still has dreams of stardom and turns her attention to Louise. The show is now reworked with blonde girls and Louise wearing a blonde wig. Herbie has booked them for a 2 week gig.

The theatre is a burlesque house and Rose refuses to let Louise perform but Louise persuades Rose to let her do it since they need to the money. Louise is sharing a dressing room with 3 strippers, Tessie Tura (Emily Rohm), Electra (Leeanna Rubin) and Mazeppa (scene stealing Sawyer Smith). Each stripper shows Louise the gimmick used for performing. As the 2 week tour is ending, the theatre manager says the star attraction has been arrested for solicitation. Rose immediately responds that Louise can do it. Now the transformation from Louise to Gypsy Rose Lee begins.

This scene is incredibly emotional because this is where Louise (powerfully portrayed by Lauren Maria Medina) comes into her own. We can see on her face the pain, at first, from Rose pushing her to go onstage and as the scene continues, her growth into the star that is Gypsy Rose Lee. All through the scene Let Me Entertain You is being played by the amazing Marriott orchestra under the direction of Brad Haak. That brass section of Let Me is the driving force. Louise now stands up to her mother. In one of the great mother-daughter confrontational scenes, Louise puts Rose at arm’s length. Rose knows Louise does not need her help anymore. After Louise walks out, Rose sings her signature performance of Rose’s Turn, questioning what it was all about and was it worth it. Louise applauds at the end of the song. Mother and daughter realize they will always be together wherever they go.

Director Amanda Dehnert has crafted this tale so that the audience feels the love, the pain, the annoyance and frustration between Rose, her daughters and Herbie. The choreography by Stephanie Klemons showcased the phenomenal supporting cast, especially the strippers in Louise’s dressing room. The talented youngsters were a joy to watch. Why does this story still draw us in? The Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim score for one thing. The story about a mother and daughter(s) trying to be the best they can will always tug at your heart. In the end, we know Rose loves her daughters and that they love her. They all have a different way of showing it and expressing it. Gypsy is a timeless story of trying to succeed. Marriott’s production has done that. Curtain up.