MUST SEEREVIEWSTheatre ReviewsTom Williams

Gypsy at Music Theater Works

Book by Arthur Laurents.

Music by Jule Styne.

Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Directed by Rudy Hogenmiller.

Conductor Roger L. Bingaman,

Choreographed by Clayton Cross.

Produced by Music Theatre Works.

At Cahn Auditorium, Evanston,

Mary Robin Roth ignites the backstage classic Broadway musical – GYPSY.

Gypsy is my # 4 All-Time favorite musical and I have seen many terrific productions of this backstage classic. Music Theater Works’ standard production is worthy that does justice to the musical. The score by Julie Stein and the lyrics by Stephen Sondheim together with Arthur Laurents’ book blend together to entertain us. The score, featuring one of the best, brassy overtures, is in terrific hands with conductor Bingaman’s full orchestra utilizing the original orchestrations.

Lexis Dance as Lousie, makes the transition from a ‘no-talent’ vaudevillian to the slick stripper Gypsy Rose Lee marvelously. Rosie Jo Neddy as Dainty June was excellent. Both her and Lexis Dance danced and sang their duet, “If Momma Was Married” in fine harmony. Russell Alan Rowe’s Herbie was a serviceable complement to the charismatic Mama Rose. The show stopper, “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” was a hoot with sexy Emily Barnash as Mezeppa (with horn), Alexis Armstrong’s Tessie (with finesse) and the hilariously underplayed Electra (with lighting) from Anna Dvorchak each showing their stripping skills.

Featuring a brassy toe-tapping vaudevillian score from Jule Styne and clever lyrics for a young Stephen Sondheim, Gypsy is the quintessential backstage Broadway musical that audiences adore.

The ambitious, driven ultimate stage mother, Mama Rose is one of the great characters in all of American Broadway musicals. Any production of Gypsy depends on who plays Mama Rose. Mary Robin Roth’s booming voice channeled Ethel Merman takes over as the determined stage mother. Her voice grated on me after a time but Roth’s best moments were when she sang. She commands her scenes especially when she blurts out “Sing Out, Louise” as storms onto the stage. We know instantly that Rose is in charge here. Mama Rose has that blend of toughness without being nasty; that staunch determination to make her daughter a star. Mary Robin Roth has fine comedic timing that together with her body language and vocal tones gives Mama Rose substance as she earns our empathy.

Roth’s strong voice allowed her to lands the “Some People” with fanatical determination; smoothly charms Herby in “Small World,” and motivates Louise in the stirring anthem “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”  Her  rendition of the fantastic “Rose’s Turn,” where Rose lets loose all the emotions from a lifetime of dreams was effectively performed.

Gypsy is a classic back stage story of vaudeville and of a mother’s living her life through her children. It is also about the rise of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famed stripper. The lush sound from the full orchestra and the smart lyrics upon the vivid score each contribute to a wonderful production. Mary Robin Roth makes GYPSY a must see event. (photo credite:Brett Beiner)

Highly Recommended.

Tom Williams.

At Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson, Evanston, IL, call 847-920-5360, tickets start at $34,, Wed. Aug 23 at 2 pm, Thur. Aug 24 at 2 pm, Fri Aug 25 at 8 pm, Sat Aug 26 at 8 pm, Sun Aug g27 at 2 pm, Running time is 2 hours 50 minutes with intermission.