by Lorie Lewis Ham
The 1959 musical Gypsy, by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, opened at the Selma Arts Center this last weekend. For a musical that I had never seen before, there were a lot of songs that I already knew by heart!
Gypsy is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, a famous striptease artist, and focuses mainly on her mother Rose–the ultimate show business mother. Rose sets out determined to make a star of her daughter June, with her daughter Louise as backup. Early on, she convinces a former talent agent named Herbie to go back in to show business and represent her daughters. They also add some young boys to the group and travel the vaudeville circuit with basically the same act for several years. However, nothing goes as Rose plans.
The musical contains many songs that according to Wikipedia, became popular standards, so I’m assuming that is why they were so familiar to me, three of which I would bet many people would recognize: “Let Me Entertain You,” “Small World,” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” This musical has the reputation of being one of the top musicals of all time, and finally having seen it, I can see why. It’s an interesting story with amazing music, and the Selma Arts Center certainly did it justice with a talented cast!
At the beginning of the musical we have the young versions of June, or Baby June, (Addison Allen) and Baby Louise (Mary-Ellison Hage). Both girls did a good job, and Addison’s voice just blew us away! After a few songs, we skip forward to when the girls are older (I’m guessing teenagers) with their mother trying to pass them off still as young children. June is at this point now played by Mary Bouton, and Louise by Brianne Vogt–both do amazing jobs of singing and acting. Louise, who becomes Gypsy Rose Lee (Brianne), becomes the focus of Act Two. It was interesting to watch this innocent young girl turn into a famous stripper, and Brianne was perfection all the way through the process–“Let Me Entertain You” takes on a whole new meaning in Act Two.
June’s back-up boys turn into young men, and one of those young men, Tulsa, gets his own song–“All I Need Is The Girl,” which is a wonderful song and dance number that Joseph Ham pulls off effortlessly.
Joe Harding plays the love struck Herbie who does whatever Rose asks in hopes of someday getting her to marry him. There is a sweet number between Herbie, Rose, and Louise, “Together Wherever We Go” (another very familiar song), that was one of my favorites–the three have great chemistry.
Rose is played by Rebecca Mattox and she is incredible in every way! Her voice is amazing, her acting is wonderful, and despite there being moments when Rose is a horrible person, Rebecca still makes you want to cheer for her and cry for her, and yell at her when she is making bad choices-which she does a lot.
While they had a few technical difficulties on opening night, the cast pulled off this show almost flawlessly and when the track stopped for the strippers hilarious song, “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” the ‘ladies’ (played by Teresa Hoopes, Casey Ballard, and Megan McCarty) didn’t miss a beat.
Gypsy will make you laugh, and cry, and sing along. Do not miss this show! Not only is it a great classic musical, but this group does a fantastic job! Gypsy is on stage at the Selma Arts Center, 1935 High Street, in Selma until March 25. Tickets can be purchased at the door or on their website.
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