Gypsy at Lakewood Theatre Company

July 16 - August 22, 2010 - Oregonian review

Emily Beleele's portrayal of stage door mom shines in Lakewood's production of 'Gypsy' Posted by OregonLive July 17, 2010

Gypsy at Lakewood Theatre Company

Pictured: Kylie Clarke Johnson as Gypsy and Emily Beleele as Rose star in Lakewood Theatre Company's musical production of Gypsy, playing through August 22.

In spite of some musical glitches in the opening overture, Lakewood’s summer production of Gypsy abounds with sparkle, intelligence and, most impressive of all, an in-depth portrayal of Rose, the queen of stage door mothers. The amazingly talented Emily Beleele shapes Rose into a dynamic, compelling central figure, legs locked in a stubborn stance, fists clenched in determination, head held high, her brain ticking away under an out-of-date hat as she drives her daughters in a gripping mania to become stars in show business, even though vaudeville is dying. Rose is one of the most intriguing characters in musical theater, and Beleele takes the role and runs with it all the way to the finish line.

This 1959 musical, one of the best-known and best-loved, packs a double whammy because it is about show business, but also about families, coming-of-age themes and being poor in a business that can often be a crap shoot at best.

Director Jim Crino allows the story to unfold naturally, and this marvelous play (based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee), with memorable music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents, has many earmarks of a full-blown tragedy, as Rose realizes her grip on her daughters June (Kimberly McFerron) and Louise, who would become famous stripper Gypsy Rose Lee (played by Kylie Clarke Johnson) is futile in a changing world where children grow up into adults with their own agendas.

But the musical numbers balance out the tragic themes, upbeat tunes like “You’ll Never Get Away from Me,” “If Momma was Married” and “Let Me Entertain You,” which becomes Louise’s signature tune in burlesque.

The entire cast works very well together. Johnson, who recently performed with Beleele in “Gracie and the Atom” at Artists Repertory Theater, is an interesting choice for Louise. Her delicate, almost fragile beauty works against type: One imagines Gypsy as brave and bold, which Johnson’s character eventually becomes. Todd Hermanson as Rose’s long-suffering boyfriend could have projected a bit more, but his quiet, attractive demeanor contrasted neatly with Beleele’s high-energy Rose.

Don Stewart Burns, a dependable character actor who has long worked at Lakewood, is delightful in a quartet of small parts, the most memorable of them being the bemused Mr. Goldstone. Jay Horenstein couldn’t be more fun as the tough stage-door manager with a cigar clamped in his mouth, and McFerron shines briefly as the grownup June, still performing child routines, and bored silly by them.

The cameo roles of the three strippers brighten up the second act, and Tana Miller as Tessie Tura, Rebecca Frost Mayer as Electra and Lisamarie Harrison as Mazeppa cut loose with the bump-and-grind routines, helped along by glittery, imaginative costumes by Patricia J. Rohrbach. Rod Langdahl’s set designs, which make good use of the entire stage, allow smooth scene changes. The show runs about three hours, including one intermission.

© 2010 All rights reserved.  -- Holly Johnson, The Oregonian

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