15 July 2013

Review: Gypsy

The Production Company
10 July 2013
State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne
to 14 July

Caroline O'Connor stars as Rose in Gypsy. Is there anything else you need to know! If you've seen Connor perform, you know you have to see her; if you haven't seen her, you've probably been told that you have to see her; if you have no idea who she is, have a google and you'll know you have to see her.

Caroline O'Connor is an old-style, belt it out with heart and guts super star and the State Theatre erupted for her last night.

Gypsy is the story of stage mother Rose, whose life is managing and creating the vaudeville act performed by her daughters Baby June and Louise. Abandoned by her own mother and three husbands, Rose holds on to what she loves most, refusing to marry the man who adores her (Herbie) and not noticing how much June wants to leave. When June abandons her family, Rose focuses on the less-talented Louise, finally convincing her to perform in a burlesque show. It's loosely based on the memoir of the 30s famous stripper Gypsy Rose Lee (called Louise).

Gypsy (Jule Styne, music; Arthur Laurents, book; Stephen Sondheim, lyrics) was first seen on Broadway from 1959 to 1961 with Ethel Merman as Rose. It was nominated for a pile of Tonys, but didn't win any. Revivals made up for this. Other famous Roses include Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters and Patti Lupone, and not to forget Rosalind Russell and Bette Midler in screen versions. Rose is the role that women of a certain age look forward to playing, written in a time when women of a certain age were loved and adored and written for.

O'Connor might have her name above the title, but the rest of the cast as just as super and starry. Matt Hetherington nearly grounds Rose as sensible and love-struck Herbie, Gemma-Ashley Kaplan brings guts to Baby June and Christina Tan transforms from downtrodden Louise to powerful Gypsy. And not to forget the scene-stealing cast of young performers, and Chloe Dallimore, Nicki Wendt and Ann Wood as the three strippers who show Louise that you gotta have a gimmick.

And the design team of Adam Gardnir (set), Tim Chappel (costume) and, Paul Jackson and Robert Cuddon (lights) create a stage that feels and looks as great as a multi-billion dollar show with a background of twinkling stars for the nostalgia-inspired back drops and the gorgeous, extra fun era-inspired costumes.

Now in their 15th year, The Production Company continue to produce the musicals that we'd never see from commercial or professional companies. With limited resources and rehearsal time, they give us the old-style shows we've only ever seen on film or ones that haven't been produced in Australia. They are more than concert versions, but less than a full production, but always made with a love of the work that makes them soar.

This was on AussieTheatre.com.

Photo by Belinda Strodder

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