Theater Review: Roses for ‘Gypsy’ at MunOpCo
Everything’s coming up roses in MunOpCo Music Theatre’s production of “Gypsy,” the fabled 1959 musical very loosely based on the relationship between stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and her controlling backstage mom.
With book by Arthur Laurents, “Gypsy” continues to entertain with stirring music by Julie Styne and lyrics by the inimitable Stephen Sondheim. Directed for MunOpCo by Daniel Petrovich, the first-rate production continues through March 8 at Scottish Rite Cathedral, Allentown.
When the curtain opened on the March 1 matinee seen for this review, the audience was treated to a colorfully-costumed throng of delightful children who continued to delight throughout the show, The news kids (Noah Green, Khylah Eure, Rowan Urich and Jaxx Valenzuela) deserve special mention for their boundless exuberance.
Enter the squeaky-voiced Baby June (Emily Noel Bellfy), mamma Rose’s youngest daughter, who entreats the audience to “Let Me Entertain You” while twirling and twisting and doing splits. She is charming, but her vaudeville act with the other kids is intentionally so bad that it is very funny.
Young Louise (Lila Schneider), Baby June’s older sister, is destined to become the burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. She spends her youth performing for her mother as a boy who is not allowed to get older, but Louise and June do grow up in an ingenious on-stage strobe light transformation. Nothing really changes, though, as the girls do the same old act, now called Dainty June (Ally Borgstrom) and the Farm Boys.
Jillian Rossi is engaging as the older Louise, who evolves convincingly from timid daughter to independent woman. She is moving when singing “Little Lamb,” and heart-rending when she discovers, “I’m pretty, momma.” She shines on the runway and in her conflict with Mama Rose.
Veteran actor Robert Calder is an ideal Herbie, the long-suffering, unrequited suitor with whom the audience can’t help but sympathize.
Strippers Tessie (Beth Sucro), Electra (Christine Ebert) and Mazeppa (Bethe Hoppes) are laugh-riots with lots of bumps and only a few grinds.
Saving the best for last, Julie Valenzuela is dynamic as Mama Rose. She belts out her quintessential “Every Things Coming Up Roses,” but plays on your heart strings in “Rose’s Turn.” She masters her character in every respect.
Other highlights of “Gypsy” are the eye-catching costumes by Carol Gehris and Linda Sherer for the 44-member cast, including Rose’s well-draped dresses, the strippers’ humorously garish attire and Gypsy’s gorgeous gowns.