'Gypsy' saves the va-va-voom for second act
By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Special to The Advertiser
By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
It's déjà vu all over again as Shari Lynn takes the lead in Diamond Head Theatre's "Gypsy." Lynn has recreated the demanding role of Mama Rose in Hawai'i nearly as often as Carol Channing revived "Hello Dolly" on Broadway and on tour. She also enjoys that same degree of personal identification with a musical comedy character.
So it's a challenge to explain why the first act of the DHT production, directed by John Rampage, lacks real life. Its 90 minutes grind by with everyone hitting their marks and reaching their notes, but with a practiced regularity suggesting that it may be possible for an opening-night performance to be over- rehearsed.
Granted, there's a lot going on as Rose bulldozes her daughters into sustaining a child act on the dying vaudeville circuit. The requisite color and action is there as Baby June grows into Dainty June, resuscitating the same old shtick, but remaining perpetually 12 years old.
In the play, Mama Rose gets mechanical performances out of her kids by browbeating them, but it's essential to see the personalities below their stage personas. The DHT first half fails to accent the human needs that cause the youngsters to sneak out of the act while mama isn't noticing.
Act 2 works much better; it's shorter and more tightly focused on the mother-daughter relationship that inadvertently catapults overlooked Louise into striptease stardom as Gypsy Rose Lee.
Not long after intermission, Candes Gentry — who until then has been sulking around the fringes as Louise — finally stands up straight, puts her shoulders back, and startles everyone by having developed into a woman's body. Her second-act posture in "Gypsy" not only makes her drop-dead gorgeous in a series of elegant gowns, but sets up the final confrontation that truly makes this Rose's musical.
Mama Rose was originally created by Ethel Merman, who stamped it with her leather-lungs ability to pump out a lyric. Lynn begins in that same style, but closes the production with much more than unstoppable volume. She executes the show's monumental "Rose's Turn" with strength and power, but injects it with new vulnerability.
In it, we see the difficulty of a mother recognizing that she must finally "let go" and the pain of admitting that she demands success "for me!" That insight has a healing quality that sends us into the curtain call satisfied by something more than a frothy, show-biz musical.
Dennis Proulx gives agent Herbie enough emotional status to make him more than just another fall guy to Rose's demands. Lisa Konove and Cathy Foy-Mahi are audience favorites as way-over-the-hill strippers who impress with "You Gotta Get a Gimmick."
We might wish that the budget allowed for a bigger orchestra, especially in the overture, and for the dollars to build a real runway into the audience. But Willie Sabel's set makes the right suggestions, and Karen Wolfe's costumes provide plenty of eye candy.