GYPSYBook by Arthur Laurents, Music by Jule Stein, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
The Firehouse Theatre
Directed by – Derek Whitener
Music Director – John Norine Jr.
Choreographer – Kyle Christopher West
Set Design – Wendy Rene’e Searcy
Costume Design – Victor Newman Brockwell
Lighting/Sound Design – Cassondra Plybon-Harbin
Props Design – Adam Kullman
Stage Manager – Kim Velten
Braiden Fisher – Uncle Jocko/Kringelein/Cigar
Zach Sharp – Georgie/L.A.
Addison Derrick – Balloon Girl
Lauren Scott – Baby June
Sydney Noelle Pitts – Young Louise
Sara Shelby-Martin – Mama Rose
Bella Casanova – Chowsie
Paul Niles – Pop/Pastey
William Cheek – Weber/Bourgeron-Cochon
Jace Petrutsas – Baby L.A.
Andrew Cave – Baby Angie
Alex Lilly – Baby Tulsa
Judge Madden – Baby Yonkers
Kris Allen – Herbie
Bethany Lorentzen – Dainty June
Kimberly Pine – Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee
Dominic Pecikonis – Tulsa
Ethan Mullins – Yonkers
Griffin Shoemaker – Angie/Tulsa U.S.
Javier Casanova – East Saint Louis
Trey Bumpass – Little Rock
Derril Lasseigne – Kansas
Amy Cave – Miss Cratchitt
Caitlin Martelle Jones – Agnes/Showgirl/Cow Dancer/June U.S.
Katie Buck – Betsy Ann/Showgirl/Dance Captain
Maddie Mateer – Edna Mae/Showgirl/Renee/Louise U.S.
Taylor Baxter – Geraldine
Kathryn Baxter – Carol Ann
Lauren Brown – Marjorie Mae
Isadora Lilly – Irene/Baby June &Louise U.S.
Ania Lyons – Delores/Waitress/Showgirl
Hilary Evitt Allen – Terrie Tura
Stephanie Felton – Mazeppa
Andi Allen – Electra
T. Brad Hawkins – Drums
Randy Honeycutt, Allison Suding – Reeds
Hamilton Levine – Bass
Rachel Madden – Trumpet
Katie McCoy – Violin
Jared West – Piano
Reviewed Performance: 6/3/2018
Reviewed by Carol M. Rice, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
Under the solid direction of Derek Whitener, The Firehouse Theatre brings the story of Mama Rose to life in vivid color. Even walking into the theatre, the proscenium arch itself with its deep red curtain closed looks like an old-time vaudeville house. Set designer Wendy Rene’e Searcy has created an extremely theatrical yet deceptively simple world for Gypsy to unfold upon, complete with a second, smaller proscenium arch toward the back of the stage. The only thing that didn’t quite work was the back wall, as the outline of a doorway in the middle of a pale blue background kept catching my eye. Set changes were quick and effective, as all of the moveable doors and furniture and more theatrical set pieces worked extremely well to set the scenes, aided by projections in the corners of the proscenium.
Victor Newman Brockwell’s costumes are enchanting. Gypsy’s gowns at the end of the show, especially, are absolutely stunning. Contrast those with the hilarious cow costume, men’s period suits, and unique plaid coats ostensibly made out of blankets, and you’ve hit every end of the spectrum. Adam Kullman ensures that the props matched the period and were appropriate for the scenes.
Cassondra Plybon-Harbin pulls double duty as lighting and sound designer, and she fares much better with the lights, which are fabulous, with lots of colors zooming in and out of each scene. At the performance I attended, the sound was definitely an issue, however. I don’t think Mama Rose’s mic worked for the entire first act, and there was a lot of electronic bumping and feedback throughout the show, which was extremely distracting. I know body mics can be temperamental, but it just felt very unpolished, although at times even with the mics, the actors were occasionally too quiet.
Not that Sara Shelby-Martin really needed a mic, as she has an amazing, powerful voice that is perfectly suited to Mama Rose. I was, quite frankly, surprised to learn that she hadn’t played the role before, as she completely embodies the brassy, controlling, overpowering stage mother, yet also giving her a somewhat surprising softer, gentler side at times. It is this side of the character that makes it easy to understand why Herbie loves her and sticks with her as long as he does. Ms. Shelby-Martin gives a truly tour de force performance.
As Herbie, Kris Allen provides Mama Rose a perfect match. Watching these two together onstage is simply magical, and his father-daughtereque relationship with Louise is also beautifully heartfelt. The sincere devastation he portrays at having to give Rose up towards the end of the play is absolutely heartbreaking.
As Louise (and later Gypsy Rose Lee), Kimberly Pine truly makes the role her own. Her endearing geekiness as a “young teen” makes us all adore her, and it is amazing how well Sydney Noelle Pitts (as Young Louise) and she matched their character interpretations. Ms. Pine continued the painful struggle in the act that Ms. Pitts began, down to identical facial expressions, so when the swap of age was made, it was utterly seamless. Well done, ladies! I will say that I thought Ms. Pine was a better Louise than Gypsy, as I didn’t quite buy her faux sophistication. However, it was still a masterful performance, which is not easy to do against the powerhouse of Ms. Shelby-Martin, but Ms. Pine matches her step for step, and I look forward to seeing her in many more shows in the area.
Bethany Lorentzen plays Dainty June, paired with Lauren Scott as Baby June, and both ladies do a lovely job and have great stage presence. Ms. Scott has quite a phenomenal voice for one so young, and her dance skills are superb. Ms. Lorentzen really captures the essence of a young woman who’s tired of being treated like a baby and is dying to be on her own to try to be a REAL star. Nicely done.
As Tulsa, another “baby” who wants to give stardom a shot on his own, Dominic Pecikonis truly shines in his number “All I Need is the Girl,” and all of this is complemented by Ms. Pine’s reactions, which are so honest and pure they make you want to just hug her. And him. This song epitomizes what these poor kids have been going through and is the catalyst for Mama Rose’s show-stopper at the end of Act I, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”
All of the boys, younger and older, in the Newsboys and Farmboys (the supporting members of Baby June’s and Dainty June’s acts) are incredibly strong singers and dancers and even acrobats, as several of them perform effortless backflips in the various numbers. A strong ensemble is vital to the success of Gypsy, and these guys are some of the best I’ve seen.
The final turning point for Louise and Rose and Herbie occurs in a run-down burlesque house, where they are accidentally booked instead of vaudeville, and here they meet a few of the more memorable cast members of Gypsy: the strippers Tessie Tura, Mazeppa, and Electra, played by Hilary Evitt Allen, Stephanie Felton, and Andi Allen, respectively. While these ladies are really only in one major scene, they definitely make their presence known, especially Ms. Felton as Mazeppa. With her goofy laugh and the ability to magically bounce her...assets...she is the highlight of the song “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.”
The large cast also included fine supporting performances by literally everyone, many of them playing multiple roles. There wasn’t a weak link anywhere...including the real animals onstage! Both Bella Casanova as Chowsie and the unnamed lamb (or was it a goat?) were very well-behaved.
Kyle Christopher West’s choreography is entertaining and fun, and looks more than challenging enough to make the audience ooh and ahh appropriately. And the dancers pull it off brilliantly. Musical director John Norine Jr. does a nice job with the vocals, as there are no weak voices or sour notes to be heard, and any harmonies are lovely. The live band also did a fabulous job. Combined with Mr. Whitener’s masterful overall direction, these three (director, choreographer, and musical director) were able to lead their extremely talented cast to create something very special. Whether you’ve ever seen Gypsy or not, I highly recommend this wonderful production at The Firehouse Theatre. You will not be disappointed.
The Firehouse Theatre
2535 Valley View Lane
Farmers Branch, TX 75234
Runs through June 17
Actual days: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 7:30 pm, and Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 pm
Tickets are $13-25.
For information and to purchase tickets, go to http://www.thefirehousetheatre.com or call the box office at 972-620-3747.