Garden Theater, Winter Garden, FL
Book by Arthur Laurents
Music by Jule Styne
Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Directed and Choreograph by Tom Vazzana
Musical Direction by Chris Endsley
Starring Andrea Canny, Grace Flaherty, and Andrea Stack
If there’s a classic chestnut of a Broadway show, “Gypsy” is it. Sassy, self-referential and full of heart and great tunes, we follow the career of Mama Rose (Canny) as she drives her daughters to a level of success that leaves them broke and starving in Poughkeepsie. Stranded in a seedy vaudeville house, the reserved and pristine Louise (Stack) does the unthinkable to save the family: she agrees to strip in a burlesque show. Beauty, charm, and naivety make her a hot, and though her mother suffers Broadway scale embarrassment, Louise becomes the nation’s star with her picture in all the papers after few high-profile arrests. Nothing succeeds like excess, as they say.
I’ve seen my share of Gypsy productions, so I’ll begin with the blunt fact this production is outstanding. From solid singing to clever staging to a rocking cast, this show impressed a full house and left them wanting more. Andera Canny provided the correct mix of bluster and belting, putting her desperation on center stage, and Loise’s quiet blooming into an international sensation came over with subtly and deftness. Sister June’s (Flaherty) performed beautifully, its just a tougher role as she has to over-act for most of the show to make Louise’s transformation striking. The other shining star here is Herbie, Roses’ long-suffering boyfriend. He’s tall and charming and clearly could do better, but he remains the calm center of this careening family unit. The supporting cast had more than a few charmers. Uncle Jocko, The Evil Talent Show Host (Alexander LaFrance) wore in a tam and pompoms made it clear he hated his job. Baby Junes supporting actor Tulsa’s (Arcadia Broad) layed us out with his blazing tap number and Baby Louise’s (Victoria Salisbury) Whiney Princess all left me with fond memories.
It’s good to go back to the classics from time to time. It’s fun to see them again from a new perspective, and there are young people still coming to live theater and they need a good dose of old fashion big time musicals. These stories persist for a good reason: they still touch our inner pains and desires. We can all sympathize with Mama Rose’s desire to have her girls make it big, and we sense her disappointment on how that came to happen. You can only guide your kids so far, then you are done. That’s why we come back to this show; we see ourselves right there on stage, with our role sung by someone people actually pay to hear.