Gypsy Rose Lee was known for her talents as a striptease artist, the emphasis being on the tease. She fell into or rather fell out of the profession in a rather unorthodox manner, as a child vaudeville performer who grew up on stage. Her story, which is the tale of her sister June and her controlling mother Rose, is told in the magical musical “Gypsy” by Arthur Laurents for book, Jules Styne for music and Stephen Sondheim for lyrics, being unveiled at Music Theatre of CT in Norwalk until Sunday, September 25.
Rose is the epitome of the stage door mama, one who would go to any length to get her girls in the spotlight, ready to crawl and grovel to guaranteetheir success on stage. A frustrated wannabe performer herself, she projected her own dreams on June and Louise, creating acts that were less than original and focused the spotlight on the blonde haired June to the detriment of Louise. In her dreams, Rose saw her girls as the stars in a Ziegfeld Follies Revue and she pushed and shoved to make it happen. It didn’t.
The death of vaudeville gave Rose pause but did not signal defeat. Rose, a determined Kirsti Carnahan, began when her girls were mere toddlers, Abby Sara Dahan as Baby June and Natalie Steele as Baby Louise, and continued her efforts as the girls grew, Carissa Massaro as June and Kate Simone as Louise, but rarely varying the act…except for adding a cow. Along the way, Rose encounters a friendly candy salesman Harbie, a helpful Paul Binotto, and persuades him to be their agent. His long suffering assistance is continually tested as the single minded Rose plows on to her goals.
Stand out moments are provided by the tap dancing skills of Tulsa, a skilled Joe Grandy, and the comic antics of the stripteasing trio of Jodi Stevens as Mazeppa, Marca Leigh as Electra and Jeri Kansas as Tessie Tura who all happily have a gimmick. Tunes like “Some People,” “Small World,” “Everything’s Coming up Roses, “ “Together, Wherever We Go” and “Rose’s Turn” light up the stage in this classic musical set in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Kevin Connors bring this vibrant story to life in the intimate space of MTC as we watch Rose try to live out her own dreams through her daughters.
For tickets ($30-55), call Music Theatre of CT, 509 Westport Avenue, Norwalk, behind Nine West Shoes, at 203-454-3883 or online at www.musictheatreofct.com. Performances are Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Come celebrate MTC’s 30th anniversary season.
How Louise becomes Gypsy Rose Lee is a transforming moment in the history of the theater and you are´invited to be there to witness the revealing event.