NODA review of Gypsy

Performance: 23rd May 2013

Review by Don McKay

Ian Lawson was very attentive and efficient as Front of House Manager along with his team who were most welcoming and relaxed. Almost a full house at the Mill for one of the most popular musicals ever staged. The open stage was minimal and lost about 50% of it’s depth to create a backstage area to store the many and varied properties by Sue Lander and Zandra Saxby, as well as Ron Johnson and Gerry Stafford’s well constructed and imaginative sets. The size of the stage did not limit the action that took place in the telling of this story, based on the life of the real Gypsy Rose Lee. Peter Darnell’s direction was very good except for some of the dialogue and musical numbers that seemed a little unnatural being played front and centre. Whilst I realise that some blackouts are unavoidable, there did seem to be a few long unnecessary pauses without any cover, particularly in act two when we see Gypsy touring around the country. I appreciate that there were some difficult costume changes, but some effort could have been made to cover the uncomfortably long and silent blackouts. The wardrobe by Jan Pederson and Virginia Pope was good especially with the three strippers, but some of the younger members of cast were wearing trainers which was completely out of era. Wigs and hair by Susan Moore were very well considered. The sound by Sandy Allen-Rowlandson was excellent, as was the lighting  design by James Doughty and Alex Mackenzie. Rob Brand did a marvellous job of Musical Direction, and he lead an extremely well balanced and entertaining orchestra.

Heather Pitt as the formidable pushy showbiz mother of Louise and June Hovic was brilliant, she totally brought the character to life, with snappy dialogue and great timing, although some of the higher notes in the songs were a bit of a stretch, Heather sold them with total conviction. Barry Thompson as the long suffering lovelorn Herbie, fortunately had the stage presence to match Heather’s energy and did a great job. The younger members of cast that played the newsboys and the younger sisters Louise and June played by Leah Sigsworth and Lauren Marler were terrific, especially Lauren who had most of the spotlight as the precocious Baby June.

The transition from the young troupe to the older troupe was beautifully done by the cast, and well choreographed by Cara Sigsworth who maintained an excellent standard throughout. The three Burlesque strippers that teach Louise the benefits of having an act with a gimmick, were played very well by Annette Codrington as Mazeppa, Gail Thorburn as Electra and Cleo Carter as Tessie. Ayesha Reid gave a great performance as the older “Baby June” who disillusioned with always being billed as the child star, ran away to make her own way in the world with her “Newsboy” boyfriend Tulsa, played by Luigi Nardonne who’s solo dance was very good indeed. Charlotte Pitt was brilliant as teenage Louise and later as Gypsy Rose Lee. This very talented young actress took Louise from a naïve, sweet young girl to a confident business minded young woman with ease. She sang and danced beautifully and made us believe that she really was the legendary “Gypsy Rose Lee“. The remaining cast members all did a great job and kept the energy up throughout. A special mention goes to Neil Clarke, who opened the show with a great comic performance as Uncle Jocko the jaded talent show host.

This was a very good production indeed.