What a homecoming: Broadway vet Lucia Spina dazzles in Marriott's outstanding 'Gypsy'
A formidable role requires a prodigious talent. And Marriott Theatre's outstanding revival of "Gypsy" has such a powerhouse in Lucia Spina.
Eighteen years after she last performed in Lincolnshire, the Broadway veteran returns to play Rose, the pushy stage mother determined to make vaudeville stars of her daughters and maybe claim a bit of the spotlight herself.
Spina has a mighty voice, but it's her nicely shaded acting, which suggests neither mother-of-the-year nor monster, that most impresses. Indomitable, indefatigable, Rose is devoted to her daughters (in her way). She is also a shameless schemer whose words wound, not always unintentionally.
Director Amanda Dehnert's production boasts first-rate singing, reflected in the chirpy vocals of the ragtag ensemble Rose drags around the country in pursuit of her dream. But it's the superb acting of Spina, silver-voiced Nathaniel Stampley and the exquisitely expressive Lauren Maria Medina that defines this "Gypsy." Stampley plays talent agent Herbie, a decent man smitten with Rose. Medina is the winsome, wounded Louise (later Gypsy Rose Lee), perpetual second fiddle to younger sister June (Tori Heinlein). Milla Liss and Elin Joy Seiler play young Louise and Baby June.
All of them share the same desire: to be seen. The need to be noticed, to be validated, drives them. Show biz is the vehicle, just as it is for burlesque veterans Tessie Tura (Emily Rohm), Electra (Leanna Rubin) and Mazeppa (Sawyer Smith), who school Louise in the art of striptease in the crowd-pleasing "You Gotta Get a Gimmick."
The set design is ideal. Collette Pollard's battered marquees with their missing letters and burned-out bulbs reflect vaudeville's faded glory. In place of tables and chairs, properties designer Sally Zack substitutes tatty luggage and steamer trunks to represent itinerant entertainers living out of suitcases. And Theresa Ham's costumes range from quirky and cheesy to glittery and glamorous (Gypsy Rose Lee's stylish, fur-edged yellow number is a personal favorite).
The score by composer Jule Styne and lyricist Stephen Sondheim (Arthur Laurents wrote the book) boasts memorable songs zestfully played by Brad Haak's nine-member orchestra. The assorted newsboys and "toreadorables" are a hoot. "All I Need is the Girl" soars thanks to J'Kobe Wallace's effortless grace, and Medina's hopeful Louise and Heinlein's frustrated June make "If Momma Was Married" a revelation.
But Styne and Sondheim's signature anthems belong to Rose. And Spina delivers. Her Act I closer, the beloved "Everything's Coming Up Roses," is characterized by a frenzied optimism that foreshadows the finale's revelations. (Note Spina's emphasis she places on "me" in the lyrics "everything's coming up roses for you and for me"). But that's just a warm-up for Spina's impassioned "Rose's Turn," a soul-baring finale in which Rose breaks down, admits her truth and shows us what might have been.