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Sunday, April 22, 2007

You gotta get a gimmick . . .

Performance Now’s latest show, Gypsy, is currently playing at the Lakewood Cultural Center through next week-end. I managed to huff and puff my way into a sold-out matinee. (Matinee: Latin for “blue hair.”) Among the chorus of oxygen tanks and the oft-repeated and not-quite-whispered, “What did she say?” from various members of the audience, I got to see a pretty darn good show, which is no small task considering Gypsy had to stand in the formidable shadow of Performance Now’s previous effort, 42nd Street.
Director Nancy Goodwin is known for painstakingly trying to recreate the original Broadway experience in the shows she brings to the stage, whereas, I, as a director, usually seek to differ from the original as much as I can. I think that both are valid approaches, but it should be noted that Nancy Goodwin is the artistic director of a highly successful theatre company while I have, on more than one occasion in this business, been “shown the door.” Ah well, like the sailor said, “I yam what I yam.” (It could also be my sparkling personality.)
In any case, I was a little surprised (pleasantly) to see that this particular Gypsy did vary somewhat from the frequent incarnations of the show. Most actresses taking on the role of Rose hit the stage with a full head of steam and don’t let up until somewhere around the middle of the second act, effectively rolling over everything in their path.
Emily Macomber’s Rose, on the other hand, is slightly more internalized, affecting a far darker and more vulnerable version of the world’s most famous stage mom. I really liked it, myself. The other effect of this more subdued Rose is the opportunity for a few of the secondary storylines and characters to have their moment as well. There’s more to this story than I was aware of previously, especially an interesting dynamic between the characters of Herbie and Louise in the first act. Now, make no mistake, Macomber takes the stage as well as the best of the brassy belters who’ve tackled the role before, she just effectively “reins in” the part at times.
As Herbie, Gary Hathaway, adds a third dimension to a role that is so frequently a mere “throwaway” part. The effect is powerful.
Alexandra is enchantingly adorable as little Baby June, and Brianna Tracy absolutely shines in the role of Gypsy Rose Lee (nee Louise). Burke Walton gets a much-deserved opportunity to demonstrate his considerable chops as Tulsa, and, if you look closely, you may notice Denver favorite (and mine) Maddi Long in the Newsboy chorus.
In a bit of interesting casting, the three tacky, somewhat-over-the-hill strippers in the “Gotta Get a Gimmick” number are played by three very beautiful and very sexy younger actresses: Susan Varady Walters, Kelly Van Oosbree, and Alisa Vaughters. Hey, I’m not complaining. Yowza! (That’s a . . . um . . . technical term.)
This show only runs for two weekends which basically leaves it flying under the radar of the “Big Three” papers in this town, and that’s a shame, because it’s a very good show.
There’s just one weekend left, so I highly recommend that you make plans now to see it.
Unfortunately, you probably won’t get to have the same experience I did, which included two very talkative elderly women in front of me who seemed just a little bit obsessed with Herbie. (Watch your back, Kristin Hathaway.)

Two reminders:
Working runs through April 28th at the Tramway Theatre, and it really is one show not to be missed.
Shane Bernier’s 8th birthday is May 30th. Get those cards in the mail.

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