A burst of trumpet opens the musical classic Gypsy and instantly marks a masterpiece.
Those first four notes pull us straight into the brassy world of vaudeville and Broadway’s brilliant fable of a fierce and focused stage mom with a desperate dream. Gypsy opens the 33rd season, playing March 3 through April 22 at Sierra Repertory Theatre’s East Sonora stage.
After 50 years, Gypsy still soars. It’s filled with humor, pathos and many of the most enduring characters ever to grace the stage. Its unforgettable score includes a string of show business staples, including “Let Me Entertain You,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Together Wherever We Go,” “Rose’s Turn” and “All I Need is the Girl.”
“This show is right up there with The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady as far as great musical books,” said SRT Artistic Director Scott Viets, who directs and choreographs SRT’s production. “It’s a show I’ve wanted to direct since I first came to SRT. It’s genius. Take away the music and it stands alone as a perfectly crafted play. Add all these fantastic songs and the show soars above the rest. It’s the epitome of the Broadway musical and an age-old story of a parent living through her children – as long as they’re children, she’s got purpose and she’s desperately holding on.”
Based on the early life of celebrated entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee, the show tells the story of “Mama Rose” and her daughters, June and Louise. Rose is so hungry for show business fame, that she gives up everything in her drive to achieve it for her daughters. Rose first fashions a children’s act to showcase her little star, June, and audiences tag along in their life on the road and the back stages of vaudeville. Their lives are at once funny, exciting, appalling and heart wrenching, as Rose dotes on June, leans on Louise and shamelessly crashes through every barrier. Time passes, the Depression hits and vaudeville fades, but Rose just won’t give up. June finally runs off, but Louise stays. With Mama still pushing, they invent a new and unique persona – burlesque’s most celebrated star, Gypsy Rose Lee. Rose is a bit reluctant at first, but Gypsy learns the ropes from some fellow strippers and makes her own transformation.
Their story is exquisitely captured in the book by Arthur Laurents, the music by Jule Syne and the lyrics by Steven Sondheim. Their creation took Broadway by storm in 1959, with Ethel Merman creating the iconic role of Mama Rose.
Viets has assembled a knock-out cast for SRT’s first production of the classic. Bay Area performer Heather Orth is Mama Rose and Samantha Bruce is Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee. The two paired up in a Bay Area production of the show last year for Broadway by the Bay, and Viets said several friends contacted him immediately to tell him how good they were.
SRT favorite Michelle Foletta is younger sister Dainty June, SRT newcomer Jason Oles is Herbie, New York performer Jake Delaney is dancer Tulsa, and Lia Metz, Rori Nogee and Kaylie Olson are burlesque performers Tessie Tura, Mazeppa and Electra. Katie Harvey and Anastacia Muñoz play Baby June and Baby Louise, and Caleb Britt, Sabrina Jensen, Dominic Moreno and Gavin Williams are the “newsboys” in the children’s act. Filling out the ensemble are Melody Britt, Lucas Coleman, Israel Cortez, Ryan Haberfeld, Kayla Hart, Krista Mensonides, Jim Shine and Madilyn Wold.
Gypsy opens Saturday, March 3 and plays through Sunday, April 22 at SRT’s East Sonora Theatre. Thursday and Friday performances begin at 7 p.m., Saturday evening performances are at 8 p.m. and Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday matinees begin at 2 p.m. Ticket prices range from $26 to $32 depending on the day of the performance. Children, group, senior and student discounts are available for select performances.