PITTSBURG — PCT’s tale of an overbearing stage mother and her daughters’ quest for attention and approval is stunning under the direction of Linden Little.
Gypsy tells the story of Mama Rose and her two daughters, June and Louise, as she tries to make them stars on the Vaudeville circuit during the late 1940s. It is based on a memoir by burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee, whom Louise grows up to be after standing in the shadow of her more talented sister June.
The show features one of the largest casts PCT has had with almost 70 members, and it is packed with talent.
In normal productions, the parts of June and Louise are split into two roles each, Baby June and Louise and the adult counterparts. Director Linden Little has left the part of June as two — she exits as a teenager — but has split Louise into three roles: Baby Louise, Dainty Louise and an adult actress for Gypsy Rose Lee. It's a brilliant move on Little's part. An older actress wouldn't be believable as awkward Dainty Louise, and a young actress doesn't pack the punch of a stone-cold burlesque dancer. The transitions between the actresses in these roles is flawless.
Vivian Holt, who plays Baby June, does an extremely convincing job as the sister who wants to be the center of attention and delivers an adorable performance. Her older counterpart, Cassie Hurt-McLarty also creates a flawless transition to a girl who is tired of her overbearing mother.
Parker Leas and Morgan Grotheer, who play Baby Louise and Dainty Louise, do a great job as the sister shoved to the background while still managing to catch the audience’s eye.
Grotheer and Hurt-McLarty also have great chemistry as the leading sisters.
Much in the same way that Mama Rose tries to live vicariously through her daughters and be the center of attention, Mary Jo Harper — who plays Mama Rose — steals the focus of every scene she’s in. Her lines are powerfully delivered and her singing is phenomenal. Her act culminates in a heartbreakingly showstopping number.
The whole cast is great and the show keeps the audience laughing throughout. But the dramatic arc and character development is touching and will keep eyes glued to the stage — Not only to the changes in Mama Rose and her daughters, but Rose’s love interest Herbie, played by Michael Doue, and the burlesque dancers in act II, played by Choreographer Kaye Lewis, Suzie Lundy and Diann Mazurek.
Janelle Cowan as the titular character Gypsy Rose Lee also showcases musical chops and an ability to change from the awkward girl desperate to impress her mother to a powerhouse burlesque dancer with no inhibitions.
Gypsy is a must see for fans of theater as well as anyone looking for a classic American story. The play helped to launch Stephen Sondheim’s career and features amazingly witty lyrics delivered in snappy numbers.
The acting is great from the Newsboys to the leads. The music — directed by Megan Gabehart — is catchy and wonderfully delivered. The staging is beautiful. The dance numbers are exciting, and the dramatic arc pulls you in. Gypsy is everything an audience could hope for.
Gypsy will be shown at Memorial Auditorium starting Thursday July 28 through Sunday July 31. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday with matinee shows at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets are $12 for reserved seating, main floor, adults, $10 reserved seating, main floor, students and seniors and $8 general admission, balcony.
— Chance Hoener is a staff writer for the Morning Sun. He can be emailed at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ReporterChance.