GYPSY a solid hit at Broadway By the Bay

Heather Orth as Mama Rose in Broadway By The Bay's Gypsy. Photo by Tracy Martin

GYPSY: Musical Comedy. Music by Jule Styne. Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Book by Arthur Laurents. Suggested by memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. Directed by Amand Folena. Musical director Rick Reynolds, with choreography by Robyn Tribuzi. Broadway By the Bay (BBB), The Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway Street, Redwood City, CA 94063. (650) 579-5565 or September 23 –October 9, 2011

GYPSY a solid hit at Broadway By the Bay

For their penultimate show of the 2011 season Broadway By the Bay (BBB) has mounted a solid hit with a cast of talented singers and performers. The star is Heather Orth exuding all the chutzpah that defines stage mothers. She backs up that image with a superb voice that fills the Fox Theatre and never misses a note. She brings the house down with her plaintive finale “Rose’s Turn.” It also helps that her major supporting cast is amazing starting with the youngest on up to Walter M. Mayes who as Herbie, fresh from an award winning performance in Curtains at Foothill College, is perfect match for Orth.

The original Broadway production of Gypsy opened in 1959 with Ethel Merman as Rose, Jack Klugman as Herbie and Sandra Church as Louise. Based on the memoirs of famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, it is story of Mama Rose’s attempts to fulfill her drab life through dreams of making her daughter June a star on the vaudeville circuit while neglecting daughter Louise who eventually blossoms into the beautiful Gypsy Rose Lee. Along the way, Herbie falls in love with Rose, despite her faults and there are many, eventually becoming the manager for the children’s act.

The score is to die for with Jule Styne and the then young Stephen Sondheim at their best. It is definitely a show where you come out humming the tunes (In order of their appearance): “Let me Entertain You”, “Some People”, “Small World”, “You’ll Never Get Away From Me”, “If Momma Were Married”, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”, “Together Wherever We Go”, “Gotta Get A Gimmick” and “Rose’s Turn.”

The fun begins with the hilarious first number as Baby June (Claire Lentz)) and Baby Louise (Lindsay Ragsdale) 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 Heather Orth is perfect for the part. One wonders where BBB recruits their seasoned youngsters. Lentz and Ragsdale are attractive, charming with great singing voices and have backup young (even tiny) singers and dancers with professional aplomb. The 30 plus cast members, accompanied by the up-tempo 14 member band directed by Rick Reynolds, sing and dance their hearts out for two and half hours deserving the rousing applause when Heather Orth belts the finale “Rose’s Turn.”

The kaleidoscopic lighting (Michael Ramsaur) deserves a bow as the “babies” morph into young adults with Samantha Bruce as Louise, Mary Kalita as June and Patrick Ball as Tulsa who performs a competent soft-shoe/tap routine later in the show. Bruce and Kalita are great singers with very competent acting skills. The amazing Samantha Bruce’s transformation from tom-boyish Louise into the lovely, sexy Gypsy Rose Lee is a marvel. Her simple line just before she makes her debut as a stripper in a second rate burlesque house, “Momma I’m beautiful” is a heart wrencher. Walter M. Mayes has a touch of Karl Malden (from the movie) as the much put upon, love smitten Herbie. He holds his own with the magnetic Heather Orth and is to be admired for his acting especially in his final split with Rose.

And accolades for one of the best scenes, is the show stopper burlesque queen number “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” with Tessia Tura (Karen DeHart), Electra (Lisa Cross) and Mazeppa (Robyn Tribuzi) should be given a second and third encore. This is a must see show.

Kedar K. Adour, MD

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