Review: Arden Theater's GYPSY packs a Wallop!

By: Jun. 19, 2017
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It's a win/win and a great treat for the Arden Theatre to end their season with an 'extended by popular demand' almost immediately after opening! A great Momma Rose is usually enough for most seasoned theater patrons and "Gypsy" fans. Arden's production has so much more indulging its audience with a thoroughly compelling story. Artistic Director Terrence Nolan and his cast have made good use of their research and gut instincts to all the major characters resulting in a fresh new take on "Gypsy".

Everyone is starving and competing for attention like the 'audition of a lifetime' and Nolan makes certain that we sense that hunger with this talented troupe. This includes the sordid trio of the "You Gotta Get A Gimmick" entertaining sisterhood of strippers/advisors; the joyous Joilet Harris as the trombone-honking Mazeppa, Electra played by Meghan Strange and the gyrating, jiggling Tessie Tura played by Monica Horan (Amy, from Everybody Loves Raymond. Yes we-knew-you had-this-secretly in you!). Joined by Tulsa's (Malik Alil) triumphant tap-dancing/ leaping "All I Need Is the Girl." What a talented tapper! The Gypsy children are equally wonderful. Alexa Hunt plays the charming over-the-top Baby June perfectly as Veronica Nardo takes the back seat as Baby Louise and shines nicely in her short spotlight in the duet "Little Lamb" with the "grown up Louise".

Here's the Cliff Notes on what some call the one of the "Greatest American Musicals".

Gypsy is a 1959 musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Arthur Laurents. Gypsy is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist, and focuses on her mother, Rose, whose name has become synonymous with "the ultimate show business mother." It follows the dreams and efforts of Rose to raise two daughters to perform onstage and casts an affectionate eye on the hardships of show business life. Take away the amazing score and the underlying story is really a painful tale of colliding desires of people within a family and extended family members who long for love, security and to be recognized.

The musical contains many songs that became popular standards, including "Everything's Coming up Roses", "Together (Wherever We Go)", "Small World", "You Gotta Get a Gimmick", "Let Me Entertain You", "All I Need Is the Girl", and "Rose's Turn".

But let's get down to the tour de force, Mary Martello. Fueled by a fearsome force of will and unique technique comparable to Patti LuPone's Mamma Rose; a complement many would enjoy. Martello's performance is well-connected to every human she encounters and attempts to win over. Nolen 's approach to Rose is unique; a seemingly sensitive almost worn Rose driven in a desperate last ditch effort that sends her on her quest as she fights her fate of insignificance like a senior battling senility. "Anybody that stays home is dead," sings Rose and Martello is putting on her pioneer bonnet and heading to the final frontier. Her relationship with long time acting friend Anthony Heald playing Herbie makes this unmatched would be couple very painful and one -sided to watch. Heald is lovable and quietly gives in to Rose's wishes. Heald rises up in his departure as Rose realizes she's let another one 'walk away'. The very talented Caroline Dooner playing grown up daughter Louise is a remarkable transformation and a joy to watch unfold. Dooner soars as Gypsy Rose Lee! All in all there's little doubt that "Everything Coming Up Roses" for Mary Martello come Barrymore time.

GYPSY plays at the Arden Theatre Company, 40 N. 2nd St., Philadelphia, PA 19106 through June 25. For tickets, call 215.922.1122 or visit www.ardentheatre.org

Photos by Mark Garvin



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