Hold onto your hats and hallelujah! Momma’s gonna show it to you because everything is coming up Roses this summer season as Cockpit in Court presents Gypsy, with music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. A sensational Broadway classic, Directed by John Desmone, with Musical Direction by Sally Tar, this no holds bar musical is the bittersweet tale of one woman and her children’s climb to glory, or as close as they can get, in the vaudeville era. With a cast chock full of talent, dazzling costumes, and an orchestra that will give you the feel that you’re actually on Broadway, this is the sizzler to see this summer.
Conductor Tim Viets leads the orchestra to new heights with an incredibly professional sound. Viets and his big band, well hidden in the orchestra pit, sound every bit as good as an actual Broadway orchestra, hitting every note and playing each song to perfection. The overture features a rousing xylophonist and spirited percussion, really amping up the audience for the production they’re about to see. The flutes are melodious, no one sounds pitchy and they keep perfect timing with the singers on stage. Viets commands impeccable balance from the orchestra, never overpowering or underwhelming those singing up on the stage; and hearing them in this show is a true delight.
Costume Coordinators James J. Fasching and Mark Briner bring a level of creative chaos to the stage that could only be acceptable in a production of Gypsy. There’s a hodgepodge of things from scandalous stripper suits to childish farm costumes, and of course a plethora of hideous yet trendy coats for Madam Rose. The show costumes for Miss June and her newsboys, and later farm boys, are just too precious, looking every bit as youthful as Madam Rose wishes her children still were. Fasching and Briner bring that extra bump of pizzazz to their work for the ‘gimmicky’ girls of the burlesque club making Tessie, Mazeppa, and Electra look scintillatingly stunning.
Director John Desmone, doubling as the show’s choreographer, gets all of the right movements in place for the flashy showy nature of vaudeville dance routines. Desmone’s work speaks for itself during “Baby June and Her Newsboys” and again during “Broadway” with similar routines outline for the young actors as well as the adults. The high-flying kicks and flings of these newsboys are particularly impressive, but none quite so impressive as the work Desmone choreographs for “All I Need is the Girl,” a solo routine featuring Tulsa (Shane Lowry). Lowry dances superbly to Desmone’s routine; his fast footwork keeps him nimble, looking snazzy as he drifts bout first with an invisible partner and then with Louise.
The ensemble, guided by Musical Director Sally Tarr, is the perfect balance of harmonious and audible. Never overpowering the lead singers in big numbers but providing the strong support of background singing, this group is talented and always in tune. Tarr gets a great deal of effort and sound from them during “Mr. Goldstone,” and “Let Me Entertain You,” at the top of the show.
Adorable is a four-letter word spelled J-U-N-E, Baby June (Katerina Lomis) that is, and her Newsboys (Andrew J. Boeren, Mattias Hanchard, and Angela-Marie J. Boeren). The most precocious bunch of youngsters featured during the show, Lomis constantly and purposefully upstages her sister Louise (Sophia DeVito) with the most shrill squeaks of “my name’s June, what’s yours?” But Lomis’ singing voice is rather impressive for a girl her age and you can clearly hear her words in “Baby June and Her Newsboys.” DeVito is an equally talented young lady, giving us a very sweet solo in “Little Lamb,” showing us the unseen side of her character.
Of course once the baby grows up she’s Dainty June (Anna Holmes) with all of the charm of her younger self and the wherewithal to know this isn’t the life for her. Holmes makes an impressive attempt to be all that Rose wants her to be in “Broadway,” but her real stellar number is a duet shared with Louise, “If Mamma Were Married.” Showcasing her lower range here, Holmes really brings the number home.
Naturally if you want to succeed in this thing called Broadway you’ve got to get a gimmick, and who better to give it to you while the getting is good than the scandalous showgirls of the burlesque house. This trio comprised of Tessie Tura (Laura May), Mazeppa (Lisa Pastella-Young), and Electra (Sarah Ford Gorman) really put the bump-n-grinding fun into their big break number “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” May, with her nasally pinched New York-style accent, is the strip queen of the dressing room and starts the song off in her outrageous costume. But it’s Pastella-Young that steals the show, belting out her bit and really hamming it up. Gorman rounds out the trio with a titillating dance, and a prance and a uh-uh-uh. Watch for her lights. This trio of ladies, despite their cameo being brief, really own these roles; powerful voices, self-confidence out the wazoo, and just overall fun characters that really make that big signature number in Act II shine as bright as the lights of Broadway.
What Broadway musical would be complete without a love interest, and unconventional as he may be, Herbie (Roger Schulman) is the man. A mild mannered man with a sweet disposition, Schulman shares sweet duets with Rose, “Small World” and “You’ll Never Get Away From Me,” both ripe with innocent flirtations and growing love. Schulman is the perfect tempering balance for Rose’s character, his milquetoast existence letting her hog the spotlight to her heart’s content. He’s a delicate diamond in the rough with a lovely voice.
Louise (Laura Donnelly) breaks out into her own after spending her life in her sister’s shadow. Donnelly’s transformation from wispy girl in waiting to star harlot is stunning. Her mild voice blossoms into a powerhouse sound for “Let Me Entertain You” at the end of the show. And her sassy personality comes out to play as she takes herself out on the burlesque circuit. Donnelly is a versatile performer that is a wonder to watch grow in this role.
The star of the show, miss larger-than-life herself, Rose (Shannon Wollman) is a talent that simply cannot be beat. Hands down, Wollman is the best thing to come along to the role of Rose since Patti LuPone. With a stellar and commanding stage presence, Wollman owns the role from the minute she pushes her way onto that stage at Uncle Jocko’s kids’ variety show. With a sensational voice that truly channels the deep inner yearning of Rose, Wollman lands every number bigger than the last. Her personality is ripe for expanding as her character grows to epic proportions during the production and she nails each scene with realistic emotional truths that often sting to just be heard aloud.
Wollman blasts the audience away at the end of Act I with “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Her sheer determination and conviction in this song are just stunning; juxtaposed against the sad reality that is her character’s life, its utterly amazing. But her shining moment is so blinding you might have to avert your eyes; “Rose’s Turn” has Wollman taking Rose out with a brilliant bang; a firework exploding so brightly that it supersedes every marquis bulb on Broadway. Wollman lets loose in this song and it all comes surging out; a phenomenal finish to her incredible performance; a truly sensational Rose if ever there was one.
So “Mamma’s got the show, Mamma’s got the gals, Mamma’s ready to go!” The question is, do you got the tickets? There’s still time to see Gypsy before it fades away into the hay day of this summer.
Running Time: Approximately 3 hours with one intermission
Gypsy plays through June 30, 2013 at Cockpit in Court— on the main stage of the Theatre Building of the Community of College of Baltimore County’s Essex Campus – 7201 Rossville Boulevard, in Rosedale, MD. For tickets please call the box office at (443) 840-2787 or purchase them online.