Ask Audrey Ask Audrey
Archived

Gypsy

"complexity comes at a cost"

Audrey review: Blazey Best shuns Mermanesque boilerplate in favour of an emotionally complex reading of Mama Rose.

Text size
Text size
Show: Gypsy
Add to favourites

Gypsy

Date: 24 May 2018

Together Wherever We Go. Everything’s Coming Up Roses.

So optimistic seem Gypsy’s best-known songs you forget what a biting portrayal of the pursuit of the American Dream – fame rather than happiness – it is.

Gypsy is Broadway’s Mother Courage and nearly 60 years after the indomitable Ethel Merman played Mama Rose, she remains one of the great acting roles of the musical theatre genre.

And so it makes good sense to hire a fine actor to play her. Enter Blazey Best, who shuns Mermanesque boilerplate in favour of an emotionally complex reading of this most ambivalent of leading ladies.

Best doesn’t blaze a la Bette Midler or Patti LuPone (notable Broadway Mamas) when it comes to singing Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim’s songs. Instead, she lights them up from within and, arguably, her voice fits a character with an outsized view of her own talent.

That complexity comes at a cost, however, and some numbers have yet to find the balance between emotional detail and forward momentum.

That said, Best is powerful in a nightmarish final scene which sees Mama on the edge of sanity, in an imaginary spotlight, bumping and grinding in a desperate approximation of her daughter Louise’s celebrated burlesque act.

There are no acting weak links in the company.

Herbie, Mama Rose’s devoted doormat of a partner, is beautifully played by Anthony Harkin.

Jessica Vickers is suitably manic as the barnstorming Baby June, apple of Mama Rose’s eye, and Sophie Wright is excellent as the teenaged (though still infantilised) June. When a New York agent’s assistant wryly asks how old she is, there’s a delicious ambiguity to her reply.

Laura Bunting blooms as Louise morphs from boyish afterthought to bill-topping exotic dancer Gypsy Rose Lee, toast of New York City.

Mark Hill delivers an energetic and graceful dance number (courtesy of choreographer Cameron Mitchell) and there’s nimble comic teamwork from Matthew Predny and the tuba-wielding Rob Johnson, stalwarts of June’s Newsboys. Jane Watt is very funny as Tessie, the slatternly Wichita stripper.

A minimal but functionally elegant design by Alicia Clements combines the bare-boards sparseness of the Depression years with concentric false prosceniums that come into their own in a montage sequence tracking Louise’s rise to notoriety.

Prop setting and scenery shunting is the preserve of the cast (no one gets much time off in Gypsy’s three hours of stage time) and the production chugs along efficiently.

Under musical director Joe Accaria, the band (Damon Wade, Marty Holoubek, Abi McCunn and Lindsay Page) make regular forays to the stage, mutating from mini-orchestra to fleapit troubadours in a flash.

Gypsy is a colossally hard show to bring off and after a relatively brief rehearsal period and a handful of previews, opening night revealed a production getting to grips with its rhythm and scale.

Unlike Carroll’s Calamity Jane, which seemed fully-fledged on its press night, Gypsy, I think, has some way to go. But everything is pointing in the right direction and this show should be quite something when it gets there.

Content
Blackie Blackie Brown
Add to favourites
ArchivedSTC Wharf 2, Walsh Bay, Sydney 12 May - 30 Jun 2018

Blackie Blackie Brown

Audrey review: Nakkiah Lui’s sense of humour weaponised and aimed straight at the soft liberal underbelly.

St Joan
Add to favourites
ArchivedRoslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay, Sydney 5 - 30 Jun 2018

St Joan

Audrey review: Imara Savage’s hard cut production gives us a St Joan for this moment and a final image that haunts.

The Hypochondriac
Add to favourites
ArchivedEternity Playhouse, Darlinghurst, Sydney 9 Jun - 1 Jul 2018

The Hypochondriac

Audrey review: Buoyant and crowd-pleasing but Hilary Bell's adaptation of a Moliere classic suffers from a weak satirical pulse.

See More

More to see

View All
Bliss
Add to favourites
ArchivedBelvoir, Surry Hills, Sydney 9 Jun - 15 Jul 2018

Bliss

Toby Truslove is Harry Joy, a man who brings a smile to all he meets. Then, one warm afternoon on the front lawn, he dies.

Marjorie Prime
Add to favourites
ArchivedEnsemble Theatre, Kirrbilli, Sydney 15 Jun - 21 Jul 2018

Marjorie Prime

Playwright Jordan Harrison explores the mysteries of human identity and the limits - if any - of what technology can replace.

Bondi Feast 2018
Add to favourites
ArchivedBondi Pavilion, Bondi Beach, Sydney 17 - 28 Jul 2018

Bondi Feast 2018

The best in home-grown theatre, comedy, cabaret, circus and food, presented in the iconic Bondi Pavilion.

Funny Girl – The Musical in Concert
Add to favourites
ArchivedSydney Opera House, Bennelong Point 12 - 14 Jul 2018

Funny Girl – The Musical in Concert

This special concert production directed by Mitchell Butel features some of Australia’s favourite leading ladies sharing the role of Fanny Brice.

Top