Sunday, November 10, 2019


Editor’s note: After this review was written, DMTC announced it was allowed to return to its building and, starting Friday, Nov. 15, all remaining performances of ‘Gypsy,’ will be at its home theater, the Jean Henderson Performing Arts Center, 607 Peña Drive, Suite 10, in Davis, and will still be free of charge.

“The show must go on” — and go on it did for Davis Musical Theatre Company, shut out of its theater by a structural problem during rehearsal for the upcoming production of “Gypsy,” directed and choreographed by Jan Isaacson.

Rehearsing first at Christ Church of Davis, and then performing at the University Covenant Church, the group had only an hour to grab costumes — so some of the costumes for the show came from the actors’ own wardrobes (though thankfully the most important costumes were collected). Likewise, there were no sets built at the time, but set pieces like tables and chairs created the proper look. John Stover is credited with the design of a car.

The show is being performed for free because it’s not the way it should be and this has got to be the best bargain in town. There’s nothing that feels “stripped down” in this production and it proves that when you have excellent actors, the audience can easily adapt to no sets and imperfect costumes.

This is the story of Gypsy Rose Lee, written by Arthur Laurents with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. But the principal character is Mama Rose, a militant stage mother who runs the lives of her children.

The show, which opened on Broadway in 1959, featured Ethel Merman in the role of Rose. It’s a huge role, with nine songs, most of which are real “belters.” There are echoes of Merman in the performance of Rachel Hoover, a terrific belter herself. She owns the role; each of her numbers is a standout.

Gillian Cubbage and Sage Greenwood are the young “Baby June,” and “Baby Louise,” two girls who don’t really want to be in show business, but who can’t say no to their overbearing mother.

Arianna Manabat is the adult Louise, ignored by her mother in favor of her more talented sister June (Maeve Kelly) until June secretly marries Tulsa (Eli Martinez), one of the chorus boys, and runs off with him.

Rose, whose dream is to make her daughter a star, concentrates on the untalented Louise, who finds her talent when forced to do a strip number in burlesque because they need the money. It’s a beautiful moment when Louise first sees herself in the mirror and realizes that she’s pretty. The rest is history. Gypsy Rose Lee became the most popular stripper in burlesque.

Nathan Lacy gives a good performance as the eternally faithful Herbie, who gives up a career in sales to help manage June. He is deeply in love with Rose and puts up with a lot for many years, but finally gives up when Rose postpones their wedding to encourage the reluctant Louise to strip.

A highlight of the show is “Ya Gotta Get a Gimmick” where three strippers, Tessie Tura (Barbara Silver), Electra (Heidi Masem) and Rene (Dannette Vassar) give Louise tips on what it takes to be successful. (Monina Reeves is credited with the costumes for this number.) Fans of Vassar have never seen her like this and even if the rest of the show weren’t so good, this alone is worth seeing.

Though it probably should not be, this is an excellent production and proves what dedication to putting on a show can create. (When you enter that huge room, remember that every single one of those chairs have to be put up and taken down by members of the company — so their work does not end with the curtain call!)

If you’ve never been to DMTC, this is your chance to see what it’s like — for free. It’s the best deal you’ll get all year.

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