Tuesday August 22nd 2017


Recommended***It is difficult to believe that it is over 50 years since “Gypsy”, the story of Gypsy Rose Lee became an award winning Broadway musical, and yet, in its newest inception on the stage at Drury Lane Oakbrook, it is as fresh as one could hope for. The only reason, that this marvelous production doesn’y get a “must see” is that the director ( William Ostek) didn’t have enough creativity in his work. Choreographer Tammy Mader, for the most part followed the original dance, but made some modifications that showed in the finished product.The sizzling transition from little kids to teens is stunning, but be warned, they do use a strobe light to create this special effect! The sets ( Martin Andrew) while workable were not what we are used to at Drury Lane, with very little glitz and glamour.

But what this production lacked in the above, it made up for with some powerful and energetic cast members. For those of you who do not know the story- “Gypsy” is about Rose, the truest of “stage mothers”, who only wants her youngest daughter to be a star. Her eldest daughter is just along for the ride as she has little talent. After years of struggling along , living 7 to a room and eating when there is money ( along with the youngsters she has taken on to be the ensemble), and Vaudeville begins to fade, the younger, June runs off with a dancer and Mamma Rose now is forced to put her attention on Louse, the older, no talent daughter, who as it turns out, has a talent as she becomes the most famous stripper of all time, Miss Gypsy Rose Lee!

 With a book by Arthur Laurents,Music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim- songs like “Let Me Entertain You”,”Some People”, “You’ll Never Get Away From Me”, “All I Need Is The Girl” ( a solid tap dance specialty by Matthew Crowle as Tulsa),”Together, Wherever we Go”, the glorious “You Gotta Get A Gimmick” ( a powerful and comical rendition by Cheryl Avery,Susan Lebeck and Frances Asher) and of course “Rose’s Turn” , a showstopper ending number as Act One show stopper “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” both of course sung with pure heart and soul by the wonderful Klea Blackhurst. What a voice! What range!. Ladies and gentleman; no matter who you have seen in this role ( Ethel Merman, Rosalind Russell,Patti LuPone or Bette Middler) she is a combination of all of these strong ladies of the theater and yet, her demeanor is even more stage mother than the others; you really feel that she wants her June to have the success she dreamed about! Bravo  Ms Blackhurst.

While she is a standout performer who stops the show several times, the show is filled with solid performers. In the very opening the kids , who always steal scenes) do just that. Baby June ( Emily Leahy who can sing, dance and do acrobatics is a delight), Baby Louise ( Hannah Whitlock plays the sympathetic character to perfection) and as the grow up, Andrea Collier ( another strong voice) is taken over by Andrea Collier and Louise/Gypsy by Andrea Prestinario ( while she starts off being a little weak, we get to see her character take on a whole new light and power in the second act). I think a special note should be added for the other kids in this production> While they are not onstage a lot after the first few scenes, they are brilliant when they are: Matt Rice,Kayla Rea,Kyle Halford,John Babbo,Ingrid Lowrey and Katie Huff.

We , as an audience, also get to see some of Chicago’s finest character actors playing parts that are smaller than usual, but making each word important to making the production complete; Andrew Lupp, Peter Kevoian, David Kortemeir ( as Herbie) , John Reeger as Pop and others and Jarrod Zimmerman in many roles, but a standout in the opener as Uncle Jocko. These actors prove “that there are indeed no small parts, only small actors”( a quote from “The Fantastiks”) as each handles their roles with just the right touch and feeling and for those who play more than one, a unique character each time.

“Gypsy” is a true theatrical experience for those who love Musical Comedy and while it is over 2 1/2 hours long ( with intermission) one never feels that they need to look at their watch- it flows from scene to scene with ease. If you have never seen this show, this would be a great place to start- just hearing the songs that end the first and second acts by Mamma Rose are worth the trip and the price of admission, but there is a whole lot more. This production will continue through April 1 with performances as follows:

Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m.,Thursdays at 1″30 p.m. and 8 p.m., Fridays at 8:30 p.m.,Saturdays at 5 and 8:30 p.m.,and Sundays at 2 and 6 p.m.

Tickets range from $35-$46 ( a bargain for theater of this quality) but wait, there’s more! There are dinner/lunch performances that can be purchased for as little as $43.75 and of course at Drury lane Oakbrook, there is lots of free parking. To order your tickets, and I suggest you not wait to do so, you can visit the box office, by phone at 630-530-0111, at Ticketmaster, 1 -800-745-3000 or online at www.drurylaneoakbrook.com


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