Drury Lane Mounts an Iconic “GYPSY”
There are few roles in theatre that have become more iconic than that of Mama Rose in Gypsy. Considered one of the greatest roles ever written, it has played by almost every major Broadway powerhouse, from Ethel Merman to Patti LuPone. With a role that legendary, there is always much comparison for any leading lady that takes on the character. “Will she belt like Merman?”; ” Will she have the subtleties of Bernadette Peters?”; ” Will she bring down the house like Tyne Daley did with Rose’s Turn?”; ” And how about Bette Midler in the ABC television version in the 1990’s?” Yes, there is always someone to compare the interpretation to. Well, Mama Rose lives in an incarnation all her own, thanks to the incredible Klea Blackhurst who gives an all out, take no prisoners approach to the ultimate stage mother.
Based on the memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, the musical, with a book by Arthur Laurents, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Jules Styne, contains some of the most memorable showtunes ever written and one of the most cohesive books for the genre. At its core, Gypsy is a psychological study of a mother/daughter relationship and the reckless abandon of forcing one’s own dreams onto your children. As much as one does not want to like Mama Rose, there ends up being great empathy for her, and therein lies the making of this masterpiece.
Ms. Blackhurst, who does in fact sound like Merman, commands this production. She knows where she is going to take her character and everyone else in the cast gets on board for the ride. Her voice is crisp, clear, melodic and powerful. More than that, you never second guess her love for her children, Louise (Andrea Prestinario) and June (Andrea Collier). She is there like a hawk, always wanting more for herself and her children but always somehow protecting them nonetheless. There is great irony in the story as the one thing that Rose despises the most is what makes her daughter a star. In fact, it is the irony and the forgiveness in Gyspy that makes it tug at your heartstrings.
A mark of a great production is how the cast holds up throughout the run and halfway through this three month run, the show is pristine and the cast is tight and near flawless. I saw the production on a Thursday evening, which is also a matinee day, and Ms. Blackhurst’s voice was sublime. One of the real finds of this production is Andrea Collier as Baby June who has possesses one of the greatest alto belts heard in recent memory. This is certainly an actress to keep your eye on. Director William Osetek does not delve much past what the script gives the characters, and for some of the roles, that can do an injustice, but the stalwart cast makes up for some of the lack of fully developed characters.
Musically, the orchestra at Drury Lane has never sounded better and the musical direction by Roberta Duchak and Ben Johnson are clear and clairvoyant. Tammy Mader keeps the choreography true to the original Martin Andrew’s scenic design keeps the production moving at a perfect pace.
Gypsy plays through April 1, 2012 at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, IL. For tickets and more information please visit
or call 630.530.0111