By Dee Jae Cox
Curtain up! Light the lights!
You got nothing to hit but the heights!
Gypsy! The 1959 Broadway musical, with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Arthur Laurents, was loosely based on the autobiography of famous striptease artist, Gypsy Rose Lee. The story defined the comedy and the tragedy of a stage mother who was born too early and started too late to achieve success in her own right and so she set about living out her dreams through the lives of her daughters.
This multi-award winning show has been performed from Broadway to London, but there’s no doubt that the Palm Canyon Theatre’s production, currently on stage through May 20th, can compete with the best of them. Gypsy, has been described as one of the best musicals ever written and in my opinion it’s definitely true. It’s not often that I want to hit the rewind on a stage play and immediately watch it all over again, but such was the case with Palm Canyon Theatre’s opening night of Gypsy. In the midst of a standing ovation by a sold out audience, I was mesmerized. The classic music of the show is still spinning in my head and the rush of emotions brought on by top tier performances, had me wanting to watch the whole show over again, just in case I had missed any of the magic the first time.
Gypsy, tells the story of the relationship between famed burlesque stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee (Louise) and her mother Rose Havoc. Starting out in Vaudeville of the 1920’s, Rose had big plans for her youngest daughter, June, (Allegra Angelo.) But life doesn’t always follow a plan. When June, runs off to marry one of the dancers in the show, Rose turns her attentions to Louise, she is determined to make one of her daughters a star by any means necessary. Most relationships between mothers and daughters are complicated, but Rose and Louise raise the bar on the struggles of a daughter trying to get out from beneath an over bearing mother.
Jaci Davis is an absolute powerhouse as Mama Rose. This role has been performed by some of the greats, Ethel Merman, Rosalind Russell, Tyne Daly and Patti Lupone, but Davis easily holds her own among them. Her voice resonates with the depth of emotion that makes this character’s performances a showstopper.
Elizabeth Schmelling, is Louise. She changes from a caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly during the course of the show. The bold, beautiful and sexy Gypsy, becomes the antithesis of the easy going, ‘no talent’ Louise. Schmelling’s character transition is so flawless, that she will make you check the program to ensure it’s the same actress performing both.
This cast is bursting at the seams with talent. From the young ensemble News Boys to the Hollywood Blondes, there’s not a minute that you will want to miss in this show. The strippers, Electra (Denise Cary,) Tessie Tura, (Elissa Landi) and Mazeppa (Morgana Corelli) were hysterically funny in their rendition of ‘”You gotta get a gimmick.” (Try getting that tune out of your head.)
I have always been a fan of Derik Shopinski’s costume designs, but his direction and choreography for Gypsy proved that he is a theatre artist with talent to spare. From curtain up to the final bow, this show moved and danced and took on a life of its own. Steven Smith’s musical direction was the cherry on the top for this musical.
“Gypsy,” is showing May 11 – 20, 2018. But run to the phone right now and get your tickets if there are still any seats available. I would not be surprised if this cast is getting sold out houses and standing ovations for every performance.
The Palm Canyon Theatre is located at 538 North Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.
For Reservations: Box Office: (760) 323-5123 – www.palmcanyontheatre.org
Dee Jae Cox is a playwright, director and producer. She is the Cofounder and Artistic Director of The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Project.