Stage
  "Gypsy: A Musical Fable"

 

Spokane Civic Theatre
1020 N. Howard Street
Spokane, WA 99201

 

 

Click here to see behind-the-scenes pictures and read a fan review of this performance!

 

"Gypsy"

September 20 - November 2, 2003

 

Suggested by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee

 

 

Starring (in order of appearance):

Uncle Jocko: Jim Phillips
George: Steve Whitehead
Balloon Girl: Ashlyn Coston
Kiddie Show Contestant: Serena Caryl
Kiddie Show Contestant: Madelyn Davis
Kiddie Show Contestant: Mackie Hockett
Kiddie Show Contestant: Kelly Kopczynski
Kiddie Show Contestant: Chloe Maier
Kiddie Show Contestant: Mary Ormsby
Kiddie Show Contestant: Gracie Kiernan Smith
Kiddie Show Contestant: Noel Wamsley
Baby Louise: Aimee Paxton
Baby June: Kate Cubberley
Rose: Patty Duke
Pop: Homer Mason
Newsboy: Alex Anderson
Newsboy: Zachary Jackson
Newsboy: Hunter Klaue
Weber: Lee Hatley
Herbie: Reed McColm
Louise: Danae M. Lowman
June: Andrea Westerman
Tulsa: Greg Pschirrer
Yonkers: Matt Dennie
Angie: Ronny Oliver
L.A.: Jon Lutyens
Kringelein: Buddy Todd
Mr. Goldstone: Hyrum Lowder
Miss Cratchit: Toni Cummins
Agnes: Katy Fitzpatrick
Marjorie May: Angela Snyder
Thelma: Alayna Caryl
Edna: Amalie Marte
Pastey: Buddy Todd
Tessie Tura: Maria Caprile
Mazeppa: Kate Vita
Cigar: Steve Whitehead
Electra: Chasity Kohlman
Showgirl: Amy Newbold
Showgirl: Alyssa Calder
Showgirl: Amalie Marte
Showgirl: Katy Fitzpatrick
Maid/Waitress: Tristen Canfield
Phil: Sheldon Rippee
Bourgeron-Cochon: Jon Lutyens

 

Written by: Arthur Laurents
Directed by: Marilyn Langbehn
Music by: Jule Styne
Lyrics by: Stephen Sondheim
Music Direction by: Carolyn Jess
Conducted by: Scarlett Hepworth
Choreographed by: Kathie Doyle-Lipe

     Direct from Broadway, Patty Duke returns to Spokane Civic Theatre as the Mother of All Stage Mothers in one of the most popular musicals of all time.  Filled with unforgettable songs ("Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Let Me Entertain You," "Together Wherever We Go," among others), this story of love, ambition and the Birth of Burlesque is certain to be one of the season's highlights!

 

     

 

The Spokesman Review
'Gypsy' Boasts Talent from Top to Bottom
September 22, 2003
by Jim Kershner


Patty Duke is absolutely terrific as Mama Rose, the mother of all stage mothers.  We'll discuss her in a minute, but first I should point out that the Spokane Civic Theatre's version of "Gypsy," is by no means a one-woman show.  This production is loaded from top to bottom with effective and polished performances.  That's deeply impressive in a community theater production with a cast of 40-plus.  This show has a top-notch Herbie (Reed McColm), a national-class Louise (Danae M. Lowman) and a stellar collection of strippers, tap-dancers, showgirls and just about everybody else.  That's a credit to director Marilyn Langbehn, who fulfills one of the most important obligations of a director: Put everyone in a role in which they can succeed.

And succeed "Gypsy" does, with just the right combination of well-timed comedy, honest drama and exuberant musical numbers.  And yes, it certainly has a charismatic performance by Duke.  She wraps that Duke energy and intensity completely around the role of Mama Rose.  Better singers have tackled this role (actually, there are better singers on this stage), but few have made Mama Rose quite so vivid, so tough and so terrifying.  Duke draws on her own experience as a child actor to create a bull-headed force of nature, a woman who simply will not rest until she has made her girls into stars.  If you want a lesson in what separates an Oscar and Emmy winning actress from a merely good actress, just listen to Duke's speaking voice.  She can make it harsh as gravel, as sweet as syrup and as tough as nails.  Her line-readings are full of an almost musical kind of vocal variety.  Her singing, on the other hand, is not her strong point.  This is not an insignificant issue, since Mama Rose has to carry many of the most memorable Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim songs, including "Small World" and "Together Wherever We Go."  Duke sells these songs on pure dramatic aplomb, and she turns the climactic "Rose's Turn" into an intense and effective little psychodrama.  And she sounds like an honest-to-goodness belter in "Everything's Coming Up Roses."

For terrific singing, however, you can't beat "If Momma Was Married" a beautifully harmonized duo by Lowman and the excellent Andrea Westerman as her sister June.  Lowman is also a fine actress.  She makes a completely believable transition from mousy Louise to the brazen Gypsy Rose Lee, the most famous stripper in America.  McColm is perfectly cast as the long-suffering Herbie, the man who waits patiently for Rose to come to her senses and marry him.  McColm brings a sense of decency and resignation to the role.

There are too many fine supporting performances for me to cram into this space.  I mean it when I say this cast had no weaknesses.  But I must mention the outstanding performance by Greg Pschirrer as Tulsa, who nails the big "All I Need is the Girl" dance number, along with Lowman.  And I was completely blown away by the trio of strippers in the hysterical "You Gotta Get a Gimmick" number.  Kate Vita was a blast as the trumpeter Mazeppa, Maria Caprile was a delicate flower as the "refined" Tessie Tura and Chasity Kohlman was sparking as the electrified Electra.

The nine-piece orchestra, conducted by Michael Muzatko and musical-directed by Carolyn Jess, had a full and brassy sound.  Set designer Nik Adams gave us a feel for what vaudeville looked like, both onstage and backstage.  He also gave us a bright red burlesque theater in the second act, complete with Gypsy Rose Lee's name in lights.  As Gypsy says, "Let me entertain you."  And does this production ever deliver.

 

 

The Pacific Northwest Inlander
Slugline Fall Arts Theatre - Gypsy At The Civic
September 12, 2003
by Michael Bowen

From 1959-61, both The Miracle Worker and Gypsy were running on Broadway.  The little girl who starred as Helen Keller in the one show was already known as Patty Duke; now, four decades later, the woman who has become Anna Pearce has the lead role in the other play, Gypsy.  And she'll be playing it right here in Spokane.  Back in the early '60s, however, Anna Marie Duke was effectively ripped from her family by a couple of domineering managers, John and Ethel Ross, who stole Anna's independence and even her identity, renaming her Patty.  There's a multilayered irony here: "Patty Duke," who was once pushed around--and worse--by a couple of complete control freaks, will now tackle the role of Mama Rose, the Mother of All Pushy Stage Mothers from Hell.  In her real-life youth, she was the tyrannized child; now she's going to be the onstage tyrant.  Will she be drawing on the oppression and abuse of her past?

"I didn't want to, but I've had to," she admits.  During rehearsals, she says, "I still go to negative memories, little vignettes of the Rosses.  There are some lines in the show--some of them are others', but some of them are mine--that are verbatim," she emphasizes.

And Duke--married to Mike Pearce for 17 years now and currently a North Idaho resident--has been willing to draw on that past while rehearsing Gypsy.  At a recent rehearsal, says director Marilyn Langbehn, "Anna shared her experiences with the Rosses, reconciling what their love looked like with her later experiences of that same emotion.  The actors were just like sponges," says Langbehn. "  And it was the good work of actors communicating, not just the sharing of stories by some person who's famous, which is not necessarily helpful to the creation of the character.  There's a difference."

Duke certainly understands the difference between Rose and a girl like Louise, the daughter whom Mama first overlooks and then exploits.  That's because, four decades later, Anna Pearce is still performing for the Rosses: "I want to show them," she says, with intensity, "even though they've passed over to the other side--that now, with the right kind of support and more skilled teachers, I can do it!"

Louise transforms herself into the phenomenon of Gypsy Rose Lee; by a similar effort of will, Anna changed herself into Patty and then back again.  There's a long tradition of actresses climbing the mountain that is Mama Rose: Ethel Merman, Rosalind Russell, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters.  Standing 5 feet tall, Duke seems less likely to belt out the role Merman-style than to follow Peters' strategy of the petite woman connecting with the role's vulnerability.  But just now, the stage veteran has her mind more on logistical than theoretical matters. She laughs at the forgetfulness that comes with age: "It's interesting--I've shifted my concern from 'Will I be able to sing that song, to dance that dance?' to 'Will I be able to remember the words?'"

And it can be taxing, this spending three months with a character who's unlikable in so many ways: "There are times," says Duke, "when I'm on stage and my mind wanders, and I think, 'I'm fine, my life is fine.'  Why am I putting myself through this?!"

By sheer force of will, Mama Rose rises from a series of defeats in Gypsy to insist that everything nevertheless is coming up--can't help but be coming up--roses.  With similar effort, Anna wrenched herself away from Patty and became, once again, Anna.

The result of all that effort and the product of all those ironies will hold sway on the Civic's Main Stage from Sept. 20-Nov. 2.  If the production succeeds, our memories of the Patty Duke who has become Anna Pearce will stay with us for a long time--together, wherever we go.

 



The Spokesman Review
Gypsy Girl

September, 2003
by Jim Kershner

 

Patty Duke admits that she is not as "technically equipped" as Ethel Merman, for instance, to tackle the role of Mama Rose in the Spokane Civic Theatre's upcoming "Gypsy."

"I wouldn't know a B-flat from a Q," Duke allowed, with that throaty laugh familiar to generations of TV viewers.  Yet she brings something just as important to Mama Rose, a character who has come to define the term "pushy stage mother."

"I get to bring my insights which come from being a kid actor," said Duke, who goes by the name of Anna Pearce around the Coeur d'Alene area, where she has lived for 14 years.  "I didn't have a mom like Rose, but I had a couple who called themselves managers, and she was like Mama Rose, a good deal.  Only she would never let it be seen in public, it was all behind the scenes."

Duke said she remembers hearing variations on Mama Rose's favorite lines many times when she was a child.

"One that's close was (in stern, commanding voice), `Now, be sure when you go out there, you sparkle!  Sparkle!'  And I didn't think I was sparkling until my eyes were rocketing around in my head."

So she has always been drawn to "Gypsy."  And in idle backstage chats during her previous Civic appearance in "A Glass Menagerie" in 1999, she let it drop that she had always coveted the part of Mama Rose.

"But after that there were times when I said, `I'm too old now, it's too big, too much, the energy is enormous,”' said Duke.  “Unfortunately, when Jack (Phillips, Civic executive director) and Marilyn (Langbehn, the show's director) said we could do this show, my ego said, `OK!  One more time!”'

Mama Rose does have some big musical numbers, including the climactic “Rose's Turn.”  Duke said that she has received outstanding coaching from voice teacher Scarlett Hepworth, music director Carolyn Jess and conductor Michael Muzatko.

“They have taught me everything by ear,” said Duke.  “They have spoon-fed me every single note.”

Duke also has effusive praise for Langbehn and for the other members of the cast.  Danae M. Lowman plays Louise, the title character who grows up to become the famous stripper, Gypsy Rose Lee.  Aimee Paxton plays the young Louise, Kate Cubberley plays Baby June and Andrea Westerman plays Dainty June.  Reed McColm plays the long-suffering Herbie.

It's not like Duke is a complete novice when it comes singin' and dancin'.  She did 10 weeks on Broadway last year in the role of Aunt Eller in the revival of “ Oklahoma !”

“Seeing all of those dancers and musicians, if you keep your ears open, you can't help but learn some things,” she said.

And, of course, Duke is the opposite of a novice when it comes to acting.  She has won an Oscar and numerous Emmys.  She was acting on Broadway, as Helen Keller in “The Miracle Worker,” when she was 12.  That's when she first developed the urge to be in “Gypsy,” which was playing down the street.

“A number of my friends were in it,” she said.  “I always felt left out, because they were all going off to sing and dance and have a great time, and I was going off to do this sad, depressing play.  Which it turned out not to be.”

Duke has plenty of time these days to fulfill her dream of being in “Gypsy,” partly because her TV career has slowed to a crawl.

“I have recently decided that, as far as I know, certainly in TV, I have no career,” said Duke, 56.  “I thought I was a staple of TV who would go into her octogenarian years sort of being around somewhere on the channel.  But the first mistake is, if you're a woman, don't turn 50.  And my God, don't turn 55.”

But she also thinks another factor is working against her--and against most other actors, for that matter.

“I'm sorry if this sounds like sour grapes, but: reality TV,” said Duke.  “My mainstay was two-hour movies.  I made a very nice living doing two-hour movies, with very little effort, I'll admit, on my part.”

Now, she says, “They just don't make them. It's been like this going on three years.  ` Oklahoma !' was a shot in the arm spiritually.  `Gypsy' will be that for me, too.  But nothing is coming into the coffers.”

The situation has reached the point where she and her husband, Mike Pearce, have decided to sell the 80-acre farm they live on in Hayden.

“We'll have to buy another home,” she said.  “We'll have to downsize, and in some ways I can see some positive things about that.  Less of a house to clean--we don't have people that work for us, it's just us.  We'll miss the animals terribly, but also we won't have to go out when it's 15 below and give somebody hay and water.”

Will they stay in the area?

“Oh, yes,” she said, with a laugh.  “We're Idahoans.  We're stuck.”

She said they want to stay in the Lakeland School District so that their son Kevin, 14, can continue in the same schools.

Duke does have one idea that would suit both her financial and artistic needs.

“In an absolutely perfect world, I would get some fabulous commercial for some medication that I already take and be a spokesperson for that, and then do theater,” she said.  “Wouldn't that be great?  One supports the other?  I'm working on it.  I've taken enough medication!”

Meanwhile she is warmed by the success of her son Sean Astin, who plays the hobbit Sam in the mega-hit “Lord of the Rings” film trilogy.

“I saw the second movie (`The Two Towers') in Times Square , and I was the only one sobbing whenever Samwise Gamgee came on,” she said.  “The rest of the audience was thinking, `What is the matter with that lady?”

 

 

The Pacific Northwest Inlander
Let Them Entertain You

Setember 25, 2003
by Michael Bowen

In the movies of our lives, we are all, each one of us, the star.  Other people come and go, playing their petty parts, but I, me, myself—there's the focus.  We lead our lives for ourselves, full of ourselves.

As a self-centered manipulator, Mama Rose lives life by herself.  In the current production of Gypsy at Spokane Civic Theater (through Nov. 1), Patty Duke warms slowly to the role, then nails the part's hollow self-promotion.

For Mama not only insists on being the star of her own show—she shanghais the people around her, even coerces her own daughters to star in a play of her own imagining.  The play's really about her, always about her—except that she can't fill the role herself.  "If I coulda, I woulda—that's show business," she murmurs near the end, and it's a line that rescues her from a vortex of egotism and insanity.

Gypsy's subtitle, after all, is "A Musical Fable": There's a moral lesson to be learned here, and it's not one that thinks highly of Little League dads or beauty pageant moms.

Or of moms like Mama Rose, who push and prod their kids.  We meet some of those stage mothers in the opening sequence, which has good energy, with a half-dozen kids jostling around while auditioning for Uncle Jocko (Jim Phillips, in a strong comic turn).  The scene manages to avoid most of the saccharine cutesiness usually associated with such scenes.  But Duke isn't as overbearing in this scene as Mama needs to be: Mama is funny in this scene, but she's also a driving force.

They're packin' 'em in for Gypsy because of the name on the marquee.  And Patty Duke is accomplished, even haunting, in the two act-ending finales, "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rose's Turn."  Singing is not her strong suit, but dramatic acting is, and that gift merges into the context of "Roses" so powerfully that everyone comes out smelling quite nice, indeed.

But Duke's performance isn't the only reason to see this version of the tale of Mama Rose and her two daughters, her would-be husband and her own insecure little self.

In fact, the first half of the first act seemed flat: Duke's voice was sometimes scratchy, the pace was down and the book subjects us to a series of painfully amateurish (funny, but still painful) little kids' vaudeville acts.  The silliness of "Mr. Goldstone" seems designed just to throw in another fun number.

But then suddenly, midway through the first half of the show, Louise solos in "Little Lamb"—a neglected girl's longing—and Danae Lowman brought so much sad beauty to the moment that we could see, even in shabby surroundings, the brightness of the star that she would become.

And the momentum builds from there.  Rose and Herbie (Reed McColm) have their nice little love song in the Chinese restaurant, "You'll Never Get Away From Me" (where I found myself wishing that Herbie, and McColm's voice, had a bigger part to play).  The voices and comedic abilities of Louise and the older June, no longer a Baby (Andrea Westerman), work well together when the two sisters fantasize "If Momma Was Married."

Greg Pschirrer, as Tulsa, puts on a little tap-dance clinic for "All I Need Is the Girl," though Lowman brings special poignance to Louise's faint mimicry of Tulsa's dance moves.  She wants to be his Ginger Rodgers, though at this point she's still being overlooked.

This is choreographer Kathie Doyle-Lipe's finest moment: She designs the dance so that Lowman appears full of longing while halting in her movements, and then somehow finds a more fluid path, merging into Pschirrer's flashy dancing.  They're a team, but only for a moment.  All of which sets up the first-act finale in that Omaha train station.

Given the backdrop later on for the (wonderfully, comically amateurish) "Toreadorables" number—which takes place in "Desert Country, Texas"—certainly the Civic could've concocted a railroad platform in Omaha, with the rails extending out to a flat, desolate horizon. Instead, director Marilyn Langbehn—along with Technical Director Peter Hardie and Set Designer and Scenic Artist Nik Adams—opted in the first-act finale for a minimal set: a single bench isolated on a cavernous, all-black stage.  The effect was funereal.  It accentuates the moment when Mama, despite learning that she's been deserted not only by most of her vaudeville cast but even by her favored daughter, nevertheless summons up the gumption (the monstrous egoism?) to rebound by corralling Louise into the show-biz life that she herself never had.  She doggedly insists that everything's coming up roses, and we both admire the sentiment and are appalled by it.

Another strong presence in this show is McColm's Herbie, the noble and all-enduring man who books Rose's shabby shows and puts up with her selfishness.  From his first entrance, in black hat and with a salesman's tattered samples case, McColm dominates scenes.  He and Duke hold their first tentative handshake, but without getting all cheesy on us.  The script hampers his first meeting with Rose ("Small World"), moving along from chance meeting to joyous intimacy in about three minutes, but when the number develops into a hint of a duet, McColm's voice is rich and reassuring, energizing the end of that song.

The strength of the key players around Rose is echoed in the rest of the cast.  For the backstage visit to a house of burlesque in Act Two, "You Gotta Get a Gimmick," we meet some of the strippers who are instrumental in the transformation of Louise into Gypsy Rose Lee.

As Mazeppa, Kate Vita toots a trumpet; Maria Caprile as Tessie Tura has, er, a distinctive costume trick; and as for Chasity Kohlman's Electra—well, my sinfulness doesn't derive from staring at her along with the other two.  But it would be sinful to reveal what Electra's gimmick is.  These ain't just broads who show a little skin; these ladies are true ecdysiasts. (They've earned the title.)

They temporarily steal the show, and they're not afraid to expose either their idiosyncrasies—or their epidermis—to public view.

For a community theater, this show boasts strong production values.  "Baby June and the Newsboys," for example, features the best use of a strobe light I've ever witnessed on a stage—anywhere.  There's patriotic bunting being flown in, live animals onstage and all manner of lighting effects, for which Peter Hardie again deserves credit: marquee lights, glittery lights, back-lighting effects and more.

At one point, Rose insists that "Everybody needs something impossible to hope for," and it's good advice. Our lives are wired for dissatisfaction.

Problem is, Rose chases after her dreams even when it means trampling someone else's.

Nevertheless, throughout it all, Duke and the rest of Langbehn's cast grab us by the lapels.  Let us entertain you, they seem to be demanding.  And they do.