A Durable 'Gypsy’ 

In spite of hit-and-miss production, classic musical Gypsy still entertains

In spite of hit-and-miss production, classic musical Gypsy still entertains

The new production of Gypsy at Boiler Room Theatre is a hit-and-miss affair. It’s ultimately entertaining, and since Gypsy is a musical that’s not done very often, it’s definitely worth a look. But the best work here comes only intermittently. A talented actress/singer, Katie Kircher is the standout performer in this tale of a struggling vaudeville family who enters the world of burlesque. Kircher plays Baby June, the moppet darling who is her mother Rose’s fondest hope for show-biz success. Kircher’s terrific in her roadhouse numbers, and she’s rock-solid when she sings “If Mama Were Married” with Melodie Madden, who plays sister Louise.

There are so many famous Jules Styne/Stephen Sondheim songs in this show—“Let Me Entertain You,” “Small World,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Together, Wherever We Go,” “You’ll Never Get Away From Me,” “Some People”—that the cast of nearly 30 would be hard-pressed not to score at some time or the other. The funny group effort on “Mr. Goldstone” comes off quite well, and when a trio of jaded, wisecracking strippers—Megan Murphy, Corrie Miller and Bridget Dunn—sing the tamely ribald “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” we get a legit sense of what musical theater is all about.

I wish I liked the key players more. As Rose, Lori Ellis tackles a tough role strongly identified with its Broadway originator, Ethel Merman, who first performed it more than 40 years ago. Ellis assumes the right single-minded attitude, and she sings professionally throughout, but her work isn’t particularly inspiring. Madden competently portrays Louise as an awkward young girl, but as her character matures, her performance does not. She lacks the presence—and, quite frankly, the sexual magnetism—to convince us of Louise’s transformation from devoted but talentless daughter into savvy stripper. The role seems way beyond her experience.

Gypsy is no lightweight musical revue—it’s a pretty serious story, actually, authored by Arthur Laurents, who also wrote West Side Story. With that in mind, Lewis Kempfer’s direction emerges as serviceable, but it’s only ordinary when the somewhat tawdry script demands more intensity. (On the plus side, Kempfer’s production and set design use the small Boiler Room stage effectively, taking us through various locales on the vaudeville circuit.) J. Dietz Osborne’s choreography is so-so, and Erin Parker’s costumes are adequate, but like some other aspects of this show, they simply don’t make the viewer take notice. Even musical director Jamey Green’s band sounds a little tinny at times.

The power of a great musical is that it can withstand inconsistent productions such as this and still yield an enjoyable evening. Approach this Gypsy with lowered expectations, and you’ll get something out of it. The show runs through Feb. 28 at Boiler Room Theatre, located in The Factory at Franklin.

—Martin Brady

The power of a great musical is that it can withstand inconsistent productions such as this and still yield an enjoyable evening. Approach this Gypsy with lowered expectations, and you’ll get something out of it. The show runs through Feb. 28 at Boiler Room Theatre, located in The Factory at Franklin.

—Martin Brady

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