Chicago Shakespeare Kicks Off Sondheim Double Bill, GYPSY and ROAD SHOW, Tonight

Louise Pitre as Rose. Photo by Bill Burlingham.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater CST) presents an unprecedented pairing of productions that will illuminate the work of composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim: Gypsy (CST's Courtyard Theater, today, February 6-March 23) and Road Show (Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare, March 13-May 4), both directed by CST Associate Artistic Director Gary Griffin.

With Sondheim's characteristic depth and musicality, Gypsy and Road Show each explore the ambitious pursuit of the American Dream during the defining period in our nation's history between the two world wars. Both casts gathered today at the theater to kick-off the rehearsal process and were addressed by Griffin and members of his creative teams.

"I look forward to sharing with the audience these two works side by side-revealing the American pioneer spirit in the first half of the twentieth century through the lens of two, real-life family journeys," Griffin reflected.

The stories behind Gypsy and Road Show first captivated Sondheim's interest at the same time early in his career, although audiences have only recently come to know his newest musical Road Show. Gypsy, for which he wrote the lyrics, received its Broadway premiere in 1959; whereas most of the music and lyrics he wrote for Road Show initially appeared under different titles in 1999 (Wise Guys) and 2003 (Bounce). Sondheim's lasting fascination with the themes and time period present in both works has intrigued Griffin, and suggests that the pairing could allow the musicals to inform one another and shed new light on each piece. "Much in the way that Chicago Shakespeare Theater is committed to the entire Shakespeare canon," Griffin points out, "this pairing is consistent with the Theater's commitment to fully exploring a writer's work-bringing together a company of artists to embrace the most beloved works as well as those that are lesser known."

With book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, Gypsy was inspired by the memoirs of famed burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee. The musical fable is a vibrant look at larger-than-life stage mother Rose, performed by Tony Award nominee Louise Pitre, who thrusts her ambitions for show business stardom onto her daughters: June, performed by Erin Burniston, and Louise, performed by Jessica Rush. Criss-crossing the country on the fading vaudeville circuit, the mother and daughters are accompanied by Rose's patient boyfriend Herbie, performed by Keith Kupferer. Family relationships are put to the test, culminating in Louise's surprising transformation into "Gypsy Rose Lee." This jewel of American musical theater boasts one show-stopping song after another-including "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Let Me Entertain You"-which will be performed by a fourteen-piece orchestra onstage.

The cast of Gypsy includes: Molly Callinan (Mazeppa), Barbara E. Robertson (Tessie Tura), Rengin Altay (Electra/Miss Cratchitt), Rhett Guter (Tulsa), Caroline Heffernan (Young Louise), Emily Leahy (Baby June), Joseph Sammour (Yonkers), Adam Fane (Angie), Brandon Haagenson (LA), Landree Fleming (Agnes), Dana Parker (Dolores), Betsy Farrar (Marjorie May), Matt DeCaro (Weber/Kringelein/Pastey), Marc Grapey (Jocko/Cigar/Phil) and John Reeger (Pop/Goldstone/Bourgeron-Cochon). The ensemble consists of Kelly Anne Krauter, Lauren Roesner, Alex Grace Paul, Maddie DePorter, Jared Rein, Cullen J. Rogers, Nate Becker, Killian Hughes and Benedict Santos Schwegel. The creative team includes Music Director Rick Fox, Choreographer Mitzi Hamilton, Scenic Designer Kevin Depinet, Costume Designer Virgil C. Johnson, Lighting Designer Philip S. Rosenberg, Sound Designers Ray Nardelli and Dan Mead and CST's resident Wig and Make-up Designer Melissa Veal.

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