The Placer Performance Calendar


Great Local Shows - Theatrical Reviews

Title Gypsy
Organization Sutter Street Theatre
Date(s) of show August 16 - September 21, 2014
Reviewer Dick Frantzreb

Gypsy is the venerable musical that premiered in 1959, based loosely on the memoirs of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee, and I saw the second performance of its 5-week run at Sutter Street Theatre.  Director Connie Mockenhaupt gave an introduction, saying this was one of her favorite shows – and one of the most difficult they have staged because of the large cast.  And I must say that sometimes, the frenzied action with a large cast on the small Sutter Street Theatre stage, seemed almost too much to take in – but that’s the nature of this big, big show.

When I say “large cast,” I’m not kidding:  there are 32 performers in all.  Many of them are talented kids – little and big – and they were always fun to watch, both for their talent and the stage presence they displayed.  But the adult actors deserve a shout-out, too.  Several with minor parts were so entertaining that I found myself looking forward to each time they would return to the stage.

The principal role was Mama Rose, the ultimate stage mother.  And in this role, Dawn DeBenedetto Maurer was the sparkplug that kept the engine of this show running.  To say that her performance was intense is an understatement.  She brought an almost manic energy to each scene, and kept that energy throughout the show, culminating in her final number, “Rose’s Turn.”  I’m sure I’ve seen it before, but offhand I can’t remember an actor so committed, so consumed, by her part.

There was a lot of other good acting (and singing and dancing) in this show.   Brooke Flores played Louise (eventually to become Gypsy Rose Lee), and time and again I was conscious of the quality of her acting, even when the action of the scene was away from her.  It’s a special moment when an actor makes you care, especially in the context of a musical comedy like this, but Brooke made me care about what she was going through – more than once.  I presume it was her father, Blake Flores, who played Herbie, the touring company’s booking agent and Mama Rose’s love interest.  Among the many other good actors, his acting (and singing) were notable.

Live music is such a plus for a show like this, and that was artfully provided by talented keyboardist, John Wilder, who was just about the hardest working performer in the whole production.  His excellent, versatile playing provided accompaniment to every musical number, overtures to the first and second acts, and musical cover for each of the many scene changes.  He even provided sound effects.

With music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, many of the musical numbers from this show are well-established parts of the American Songbook:  “Some People,” “Small World,” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”  But I was especially delighted by the lesser-known songs.  “If Momma Was Married,” for example, performed by Louise (Brooke Flores) and June (Jessica Bisbee) was charming – but I felt the same about several of the other songs.

Costumer Eileen Beaver deserves in absentia applause for her costuming of this big production.  And in particular her outfits for the strippers were completely over-the-top.  Finally, it was the guidance of an experienced director like Connie Mockenhaupt that brought these elements together so successfully in this well-loved staple of the American Musical Theatre.  If you haven’t seen Gypsy, be sure to catch this production.  And even if you have seen it in years or decades past, take a trip down memory lane; come and enjoy it again.

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