A rose is a rose is a rose and the good news is that Shannon Lee Jones is our rose, as she led the talented, energetic cast through a stunning opening night at the Elizabeth Wallace Theater in the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.
She is a powerhouse, an astonishing actress, dancer and singer. She artfully took us through the details and events of one of the most important Broadway musical's of our time ... the legendary, "Gypsy."
The night's relentlessly entertaining, original musical fable -- with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim -- was based on the suggested memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. Casey Colgan, the New York director, choreographer, dancer and actor who is on the faculty at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy and is a long a favorite of Hilton Head theater goers -- took charge of the direction and choreography of this classic show. He filled our production with "wow-factors", both musical and theatrical. Colgan has more than 25 years overseeing and participating in local productions,
The tone for our "Gypsy," first produced on Broadway in 1959, was set before the curtain went up when those in the orchestra pit, under the musical direction of Bob Bray, set the stage, the mood and expectations. The "Gypsy Overture" offered glimmers of much of what many were anticipating and included "Everything's coming Up Roses," "Let Me Entertain You," and "Together, Wherever We Go."
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The storyline is by turns funny and lively, complicated and deadly serious. It tells the story of Rose, the absolute, quintessential, show-biz mother of the century as she forges ahead, her two daughters in tow, toward stardom, and the Great White Way -- no matter what.
Through the course of two acts, we get a glimpse at another side of Rose and her motivation. A giant shadow is cast as we note a leit motif. Through it all, Rose may be fulfilling her own need for stardom, the spotlight and recognition, even unwittingly.
Whatever the tug, we see that Rose's efforts to accomplish her goals -- no matter the outcome -- will change the lives of those closest to her.
The sharp, insightful script and the defining delivery by the impressive cast brought exuberant laughter throughout the packed house. There were pockets of erupting, uncontrollable, giant-sized guffaws and spontaneous whistles, clapping, toe tapping and shouts of approval as the musical unfolded.
Supporting leads were top drawer and contributed impressively to the success of the show.
Notice, particularly, Sarah Claire Smith, the most convincing, sensitive Louise, who ultimately emerges as the real deal, the burlesque, stripper; Stephen Day as the very strong, patient and supportive Herbie, Rose's Manager, and more; Nic Thompson, who delivered the dancing and acting requirements of Tulsa impressively; and Caitlin Rebecca Wilayto, who convinced us all of the issues she faced as Dainty June, the performer, and then as the clear-eyed June.
The young cast members, many who attend Lowcountry schools, impressively assumed their places on stage in a variety of formats. They took on their responsibilities professionally and carefully saw to the demands of their roles. Whether they acted as newsboys, patriotic participants in red, white and blue tributes, in barnyard scenes with a two person cow or as a clarinet player the high quality of their work was standout.
Be prepared to enjoy some wonderfully funny moments.
You'll chuckle when you note that Rose -- totally and always endearingly on the cheap -- turned hotel blankets into coats, stole silverware from restaurants, and even sold her father's honorary gold plaque. She has some impeccably crafted lines which she delivers with a precision that makes you feel that they might have come straight from her embittered yet tender and big hearted soul.
A particularly memorable scene comes at the end of the first act when Rose is devastated by a series of setbacks. At first it appears that even she, listing all that is terribly wrong, sees no hope. But it doesn't take long for her to pull herself up and take back her future when she, belts out "Everything's Coming up Roses."
One of the funniest scenes comes in the second act, when Louise, having been forced to by Rose, must perform, as a stripper on a burlesque stage. The mood lightens impressively as soon as three amazing women -- Jan Leigh Herndon as Tessie Tura, Meghan Moroney as Mazeppa and Cat Yates as Electra -- offer kind advice to the frightened, uninitiated Louise as they each take their separate leads in "You Gotta Get a Gimmick." Trust me, you'll enjoy every moment. The trio is riveting and show stopping.
There are and have been over the years a number of different endings to "Gypsy."
I don't want to give our Hilton Head outcome away, but I feel certain you will exit the theater with the strains of "Let Me Entertain You," carefully set in your memory.
"Gypsy" runs through May 24th.