Regional Reviews: Florida - West Coast
Also see Bill's review of The Toxic Avenger
Ask any Broadway aficionado what the greatest musical ever written is and I have little doubt that Arthur Laurents (book), Jule Styne (music) and Stephen Sondheim's (lyrics) Gypsy is going to be on their short list. I have lost count of the many times I have seen this show, but I can say I have seen almost all of the legendary productions with stars such as Ethel Merman (although I was too young to really have clear memories), Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly and Bernadette Peters. I have also seen Jo Anne Worley and Karen Morrow give fine performances. The musical is so good, that I go right along with the story, enjoying its parade of one superlative song after another. At this outing I noticed how strongly Arthur Laurents' book fleshes out the characters and what a fine piece of craftsmanship it is. Since fully professional productions of Gypsy do not appear with any degree of regularity in and around Sarasota, The Players Theatre is giving audiences a chance to experience the show live.
Ellie Pattison heads the cast as Rose, probably the single greatest female role in musical theater. She sings it very well and acts it with an emphasis on the brash. "Some People" is much more vocally challenging than people realize, and this is one of the highlights of Ms. Pattison's performance. Joseph Giglia makes the most possible of the role of Herbie, a thankless part without a song of his own or even an important part of any song. He evokes the audience's emotion, especially when he finally ups and leaves. Ashley Figlow plays Louise, starting with the "Little Lamb" scene and through to her days as the stripper known as Gypsy Rose Lee. She is believable at both ends of this challenging role. Hannah Beatt plays her grown up (sort of) sister June and is excellent in her "Dainty June and Her Farmboys" number. She and Ms. Figlow make "If Momma Was Married" the almost showstopper it is meant to be.
Brian Craft as Tulsa dances well in "All I Need Is the Girl" and, via the magic of the stage, he is believable as a character much younger than his actual age. This show is loaded with feature parts. Standouts in the supporting cast include Andrea Keddell as Mazeppa, Angela Bernardo as Electra and Miss Crachit, Cara Herman as Tessie Tura, Michael Brown as Uncle Jocko and Goldstone, and Alanna Rife and Riley Bloom as Babies June and Louise. The ensemble cast is quite strong across the entire company.
Brad Wages directs and choreographs a fast-moving production, using very simple sets which nonetheless get the job done effectively. There is a runway out into the first row of the audience, encircling the orchestra pit, very appropriate for this story set in the era of vaudeville. One of his best touches is to have characters carry placards around the runway to help the audience keep track of time and place.
Musical director Alan Corey does a fine job with the score. He passed out during the performance I attended but was able to recover and continue. I want to wish him all the best for a speedy recovery. Set design by Jeffrey Weber as mentioned is very simple but very effective. Costumes by Jared Walker are very well done, very much of the period. Lighting design by Michael Pasquini is highly effective. This might be a great time to mention that Mr. Pasquini lights up stages and productions all over this region, always effectively. He is a great artist at what he does, and the fact that his work does not call attention to itself is just as it should be.
It's great to have a chance to see Gypsy live, thanks to The Players Theatre and their fine production.
Gypsy through October 16, 2016, at The Players Theatre, 838 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL. Box Office (941) 365-2494. For more information visit www.theplayers.org.
Director/Choreographer: Brad Wages