Nancy Sasso Janis
- OnStage Connecticut Critic
Sharon, CT - The summer season at Sharon Playhouse opened last night with Karen Ziemba in the iconic title role of ‘Gypsy.’ The playhouse reimagined both this musical and the upcoming ‘Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’ for their stage this season because they represent two of the best stories Broadway has ever told. The crowd at the opening night of ‘Gypsy’ was on its feet for the curtain call and many remained for the post-show cabaret outside the theater.
‘Gypsy’ is a big show with an almost three hour book by Arthur Laurents and wonderful music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The story was inspired by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. Ms. Ziemba takes on the challenging role of the ultimate stage mother and was perfect in every way. Her pushiness is unrelenting but the fierce love she has for her daughters also comes through in this gifted actress’ performance. “Rose’s Turn” was a highlight for me.
Rufus Collins, who played Henry Higgins himself in last summer’s ‘My Fair Lady’ in Sharon, was endearing as Rose’s long time betrothed, Herbie. Kyra Kennedy made her Sharon Playhouse debut in the role of Louise; she managed to have a glow about her even when she was in the background for most of the first act.
Many of the members of the Collegiate Company are pursuing their higher education at Penn State University. Senior Alex Dorf danced very well as Tulsa and junior Julia Hemp was Louise’s more talented sister June. Junior Joseph Allen played Angie and Penn transfer student Nick Case played the role of L.A. Junior Johnathan Teeling played a newsboy and served as dance captain. All these young men were fine singers and dancers.
Dave Cadwell appeared in his twelfth Sharon production as Cigar and John Champion (Joe Boyd the elder in ‘Damn Yankees’ and a Board member of the playhouse) played Mr. Weber/Mr. Goldstone quite well. UCONN grad Mac Cherny played Yonkers and David Fanning was both Uncle Jocko and Mr. Kringelein. Tom Schindler played Rose’s Pop.
NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts junior Sarah Anne Fuller Hogewood made her Sharon debut as Lily, while NYU sophomore Jacqueline Minogue played Marjorie May. Lily Autumn Page of Marymount Manhattan College played Geraldine while Libby Rosenfield of Penn State was Agnes.
The strippers were played by Sarah Cline as Tessie Tura, Carly Sakolove as Mazeppa and Emily Soell as Electra in her light up costume. Board member Ms. Soell also was cute as secretary Miss Cratchitt.
The youth ensemble included Serafina Fauci as Baby June, Evan Fine as Clarinet Boy, Joseph Lamberti as Tapping Boy, Jane Langan as Balloon Girl, Shane Ravi Lischin as Ventriloquist and Olivia Santiago as Baby Louise. All did well in their brief roles at the beginning of the first act and then got to go home.
‘Gypsy’ was directed and choreographed by Richard Stafford, the director of last season’s ‘My Fair Lady.’ John Simpkins, the head of musical theatre at Penn State University, is the Artistic Director of Sharon Playhouse. Costumes designed by resident costumer Michelle Eden Humphrey, designing her fourth season in Sharon, were plentiful and quite beautiful; the gowns worn by Louise when she has become Gypsy Rose Lee were pretty spectacular. The wide range of locations demanded lots of changes and the cast members managed them well. The projection at the top of the stage worked intermittently at best and attempts to fix the problem were mostly distracting. The rest of the lighting designed by Jack Mehler was fine, especially during the overture. The orchestra under the direction of music director Joshua Zecher-Ross did a great job with the fabulous score.
‘Gypsy’ continues at Sharon Playhouse (GPS systems may still list it under TriArts Sharon Playhouse) through July 3. It is over an hour to commute to Sharon from the Waterbury area but I will be back again to see most of the upcoming season that also includes ‘Judge Jackie’ with the amazing Klea Blackhurst, ‘Quartet’ with Elizabeth Franz and ‘I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change.’