Director Jonathan Ogilvie, ably assisted by AD Kimberley Hollitt, along with an evenly talented cast and a first class production team, has injected new life into this aging musical. Ogilvie has chosen a pathway that not only has the play looking good but he uses the vast playing space of the Victor Harbour Town Hall in ways both creative and interesting. His set design has a small proscenium arch centre stage which moves like a turntable and which can be easily rotated to reveal a new scene or used to stage the burlesque scenes either on its apron front or lit through its scrim-like curtain. It is most effective throughout especially when time moves forward and Rose’s children transition to young adulthood, which occurs with seamless ease. I take the opportunity to make mention of Set Construction boss John Williams (who also doubles as Stage Manager) and his crew who must have faced a few problem solving issues along the way. Well done! Similarly, Costume Coordinator Kimberley Hollitt and her team have produced a fine array of costumes altogether relevant, colourful and inventive which adds another layer to the show and catches the eye.
Musical Director Tim Wormald manages a vibrant and most competent musical ensemble. The sound produced throughout is toe-tapping stuff and each instrumentalist lends his or her musicianship to construct a most pleasing result. Choreographer Natalie Stevenson keeps it simple yet effective in coaching the chorus line to great effect. The chorus, whichever one is applicable, is always good to watch. Whether they be Newsboys, Farmboys, the Toreadorables or one of the Burlesque routines, everybody attacks their task with palpable energy and relish. The resultant production package is one well worth selling, and lead character the indefatigable Rose never stops trying to do just that.
So to the players. Evie Miller as Baby June and Alice Riggs as Baby Louise make for a delightful duo. They play off each other other very well and both firmly establish their characters for an older iteration to build upon. Evie’s little high kick and accompanying squeal is oft repeated and Alice’s frequent klutz-like attempts at trick moves become trademarks for their older selves later in the play. Well acted girls! Jon Grear as Pop, Jocko and all the other entrepreneurs along the journey displays sound knowledge of stagecraft and his various cameos dovetail easily into the narrative as a direct result. Matthew Boyd as Tulsa not only moves with natural ease, he has much better than adequate vocals to add to his skill repertoire. He makes the stage his own with the splendid song and dance routine “All I need is the Girl” before doing a runner with June! I do hope Matthew continues with stage work as he may well have a bright future. The gal he elopes with is cleverly played by Tia Stevenson. Tia, as the grown up June is wonderful. She moves well and addresses her audience in a self assured manner. She maintains June’s trademark high kick and attendant squeal to amusing and timely effect. John Wilson’s Herbie provides a pretty good foil for Rose and her spontaneous grab bag of crazy ideas. I detected John has a good singing voice but needs to seize some confidence and let it loose. I concede it is not easy playing opposite such a dominant and domineering character!
Ally Miller is a teasing and tantalising “Tessie Tura” together with Kimberley Bennetta as “Mazeppa” and Saffron Simpson who literally lights up the stage as “Electra”. Together they really vamp it up nicely in their trio “You Gotta Get a Gimmick”. Great fun! All scenes in the burlesque show are nicely balanced and delivered by all concerned.
Aria Renee Stevenson delivers a sterling performance as the older Louise and ultimate “Gypsy Rose”. She handles the complexity of her role with intelligence and sensitivity. Her early song “Little Lamb” is delivered with sweet melancholy. Aria makes good use of her vocal range with her equally well voiced sister June (Tia Stevenson) in the duet “If Momma was Married”. She crafts a character we can identify with and her performance is faultless.
Elizabeth Bentley as Rose dominates the show just as she overwhelms and dominates her daughters and anybody else who gets in her way. Elizabeth delivers a fine performance, and in so doing demonstrates how aware she is of her craft and her ability to inject her role with the bravura effort it commands. She shows great song salesmanship in numbers like ” Everything’s Coming up Roses” and she belts out an apt finale with a great rendition of “Rose’s Turn”.
I must confess that I am (was?) not much of a fan of “Gypsy the Musical” and thought it to be terminally dated as a choice for performance. However the excellent production team and the obvious enthusiastic backing of the South Coast Choral and Arts Society have proven me wrong. Together with last night’s enthusiastic audience I was thoroughly entertained. “Gypsy” is a worthy addition to SCCAS’s long, successful and enviable history.
Photo: Flynn Turley