GYPSY at Contra Costa Civic Theatre a winner

GYPSY: Musical Comedy. Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Book by Arthur Laurents. Suggested by memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. Directed by Daren A.C. Carollo. Contra Costa Civic Theatre (CCCT) 951 Pomona Avenue, El Cerrito, CA 94530. At the corner of Moeser Lane and Pomona Avenue. Ticket Reservations (24 Hour): (510) 524-9132 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (510) 524-9132 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or Runs: June 17 to July 17, 2011

GYPSY at CCCT an entertaining evening

An oft repeated song in the marvelous musical comedy Gypsy is “Let Me Entertain You.” The Contra Costa Civic Theatre (CCCT) production does that and more. The 30 plus cast members, accompanied by the up-tempo six member back stage band, sing and dance their hearts out deserving the rousing applause when Jessica Fisher as Mama Rose belts the finale “Rose’s Turn” with four huge marquee banners flashing “Rose.” The ambitious CCCT successfully staged Gypsy in 1999 and elected to re-stage it in the final slot of their 2010-2011 season. It is a wise choice since this quality production should stimulate buying of season tickets, especially since next season opens with Chicago with the penultimate show being West Side Story.

The original Broadway production of Gypsy opened in 1959 with Ethel Merman as Rose, Jack Klugman as Herbie and Sandra Church as Louise [nee Gypsy Rose Lee] directed/choreographed by Jerome Robbins. Based on the memoirs of famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, it is story of "the ultimate show business mother." Mama Rose dreams of grooming her two daughters, June and Louise into stars, and thus gaining fulfillment for her own failed venture into show business. In real life, Louise became Gypsy Rose Lee and Baby June, June Havoc.

The fun begins with the hilarious first number as Baby June (Jocelyn Purcell) and Louise (Marianna Scott) audition for a spot on the vaudeville circuit in the 1920s with “Let Me Entertain You.” This is the first inclination we get of Mama Rose’s aggressive behavior and Jessica Fisher is perfect for the part. Not only can she act, but she also can belt out the numbers reminiscent of Ethel Merman’s style.

The musical numbers have become standards and will have you humming the tunes long after you leave the confines of CCCT’s intimate theatre where every seat is a good seat. In the first act alone they include “Some People”, “Small World”, “Little Lamb”, “If Momma Was Married”, “All I Need is the Girl” and the “Everything's Coming up Roses.” In between these numbers the ensemble of youngsters take “Let Me Entertain You” to the nth degree with their antics and the introduction of a big-headed loveable cow to add a laugh or two. The lighting director, Adam Fry, deserves a bow for the clever use of flicking lights as the “babies” morph into young adults with Olivia Hytha as June and Morgan Frazier as Louise and Jack Sales as Tulsa performs a competent soft-shoe/tap routine.

Morgan Frazier’s transformation from tom-boyish Louise into the lovely, sexy Gypsy Rose Lee is a marvel. Ryan Weible as the much put upon, love smitten Herbie begins his entrance a bit hesitantly but is to be admired for his acting in later scenes. The orchestra under G. Scott Lacy’s direction never misses a beat. And one of the best for last is the show stopper burlesque queen number “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” by Tessia Tura (Ali Lane), Electra (Noelle Guerin) Mazeppa (Kerry Chapman).

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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