PICKSINSIX Review: GYPSY: A MUSICAL FABLE
‘GYPSY’ WILL TAKE YOUR BREATH AWAY!
Like the scene out of a famous Buster Keaton film, the front wall of the Ruth Page Center for the Arts rattled and shook for over two hours on Tuesday night and then fell forward in one monumental crash all over North Dearborn. The only thing left standing amid the rubble was the extraordinary E. Faye Butler whose jaw-dropping portrayal of Rose in Porchlight Music Theatre’s “GYPSY: A Musical Fable” created such a seismic shift that the aftershock is still being felt at a 1920s vaudeville house in Omaha. But there she was, beaming that beautifully, broad smile, in one of Bill Morey’s many stunning outfits, with dozens of roses coming up all around her. You have never seen a “GYPSY” like this one — arguably Porchlight’s finest and most ambitious production to date — and it will be talked about for a long, long time.
Artistic Director Michael Weber, known for envisioning big, bold innovative treatments of classic musicals, has raised the artistic bar at their new home in the Ruth Page Center. It is only the second season at Ruth Page, and 24th overall for the award-winning Porchlight organization, but Weber has now unlocked a fascinating new treatment of the classic Arthur Laurents book with music by Jules Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim that churns through the early days of Rose’s quest to make a better life than she had for her daughter’s June and Louise, who becomes the famous Gypsy Rose Lee.
It is vitally important to state at this juncture that Weber sets things up so simply, and with such fitting and expert attention to Styne’s beautiful music and the backstory, that you begin to wonder how all of this is going to play out. Then, in one sweeping motion, courtesy of scenic designer Jeffrey D. Kmiec and choreographer Chris Carter, we are catapulted into the vaudeville theater circuit and the heart of this wonderful story. That moment — and everything else about this glorious production of “GYPSY” — will take your breath away!
Among the principal roles, in a cast that numbers close to 30, there are standout performances from José Antonio García (Herbie), Aalon Smith, (June) and Daryn Whitney Harrell (Louise) who evolves into the sultry Gypsy Rose. Harrell and Smith shine in “If Momma Was Married” and the trio of Butler, García and Whitney deliver the fun and tuneful favorite “Together, Wherever We Go.” The Ensemble, which includes a slew of youthful performers, most notably the charming newcomer Izzie Rose (Baby June), are all terrific, as are the featured roles rendered by Marco Tzunux (Tulsa), Larry Baldacci (Uncle Jocko/Mr. Goldstone/Pastey) and Elya Faye Bottiger (Agnes).
Backstage at the burlesque house, nothing could be finer than having the enormous talents of Melissa Young (Tessie Tura), Dawn Bless (Mazeppa), and Honey West (Electra) in the horn-blowing, tassle-turning, electrifying number “You Gotta Get A Gimmick.”
David Fiorello’s superb music direction and the seven-piece ensemble is on fire all night long. Butler’s powerful interpretations of “Some People,” the delightfully funny “Mr. Goldstone” and “Everything‘s Coming Up Roses” are unforgettable highlights. It is the iconic “Rose’s Turn,” however, that makes the house shake, rattle and roar, and forever changes the description of “Showstopper” to: “E. Faye Butler in ‘GYPSY: A Musical Fable’ at Porchlight!”
PORCHLIGHT MUSIC THEATRE
GYPSY: A MUSICAL FABLE
EXTENDED through December 29th
RUTH PAGE CENTER FOR THE ARTS
1016 N. Dearborn St. Chicago