'Gypsy' opens ACT season with solid cast, strong lead
By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Advertiser Drama Critic
Its producers hold a solid hand and give it a strong lead.
The solid hand belongs to Glenn Cannon, who has stacked the deck with a secure cast and guides them through this powerhouse musical that sometimes seems alive enough to drive itself.
The strong lead is Shari Lynn, who steps into the role of domineering stage mother as if it were written for her. It was written of course for Ethel Merman, who gave it the signature stamp of a Sherman tank cutting through cornfields. Rosalind Russell followed the bulldozer approach in the movie, as did Bette Midler in the TV version.
While the current Broadway revival starring Bernadette Peters makes the lead character of Mamma Rose more vulnerable, Lynn opts for the traditional interpretation creating a seemingly invulnerable personality that begins to crack only when daughter Gypsy develops the confidence to fight back.
That central message is sharp and clear in the final scenes when Gypsy begins to parlay her burlesque persona into personal wealth and fame, demonstrating that the child must break from the parent and that the parent must let go.
The pain of letting go drives the big finale number, "Rose's Turn," where Lynn wrings a lifetime of hurt from lyrics like "One quick look as each of them leaves you. Thanks a lot and out with the garbage!"
The number offers a neat, counterpoint echo from the end of Act One, where Lynn blasts "Everything's Coming Up Roses" into a challenge against Fate.
But this is not a message musical.
The music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim want us to have fun. And Cannon's staging of the bumbling show-business path followed a third-rate child act is filled with color, sound, and memorable characters. Grace Bell Humerickhouse adds complementary choreography.
Jakara Mato is a bit young for Gypsy's final scenes but sings well and manages an excellent transition from ugly duckling Louise to the swan she finally becomes as Gypsy.
David Farmer is just right as Rose's long-suffering boyfriend Herbie and gives the character enough substance for us to feel his final disappointment.
Cole Horibe as Tulsa successfully pulls off a difficult song and dance solo and Bryna O'Neill as June shows us the frustration of a young woman forced to remain a child star. Marcela Biven and Kate Ryan do well as young June and Louise.
Euphrosyne Rushforth, Cameryn Krainin and Mary Ann Changg are delightful as a trio of down-at-the-heels strippers.
Lina Jeong Doo's orchestra does well with occasional indecision among the horns Tom Giza's sets change smoothly, and Kathy Kohl's costumes add a punch of color and style.
"Gypsy" makes us feel good and lets our spirits climb. That's some praise for a show that also delivers a universal message.
Correction: Cole Horibe performed a difficult song and dance solo as Tulsa in "Gypsy." A previous version of this review named a different actor and part.