OFF BROADWAY REVIEW
Two things you can always count on at The Actor’s NET of Bucks County, which plays at The Musical Theater Heritage in Morrisville, Pa. The first is a splendid cast, no matter how large or how difficult the roles. And the second is clever staging, no matter how many or intricate the settings.
Take the current production of “Gypsy,” for example. The musical is based on the memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, her early years and family hassles. It is all translated to the stage by the late Arthur Laurents who wrote the book; composer Julie Styne (probably his finest score;) and lyricist Stephen Sondheim in his early years. The memoirs were published in 1954, the musical opened in mid-May of ’57. Ethel Merman headed the cast; Jack Kulgman played Herbie, the long-time puppy-dog of a suitor and theater agent. And Sandra Church played Gypsy. Incidentally the show received no less than eight Tony Award nominations—and won none.
It’s a large cast: 35 actors, some doubling up, and for the first time at NET, rear projections are being used to cover all the various locations and times. It probably saves about a quarter-hour in an evening that tends to run long anyway. And it worked beautifully. So does that huge company, with Margo O’Moore playing Rose as if she was born to the role. She has been away from NET for the past six years, playing an assortment of roles in other local companies, but here she is superb, sings with more delicacy than Merman and acts far better. Jack Bathke, who play Herbie is a fine actor, doesn’t pretend to be a strong singer, but can easily hold his own. (Jack Klugman didn’t pretend to be a singer either.)
Sarah Webster plays Louise (Gypsy) with just the right amount of fire and ice. Hard to believe she made her first appearance in Morrisville ten years ago as Tootie in “Meet Me In Saint Louis.” Others who stand out in the three-hour evening are: Christopher Cherin, as Tulsa; Mitch Gerson, as Mr. Goldstone; Brooke Arielle Calderone, as June; Jack Petzko, as Uncle Jocko; and Marco Newton, as Pop.
The only hitch in the evening is a somewhat too loud, somewhat too shrill, somewhat too close stage orchestra. It has 11 members which just may be somewhat too large for the postage-stamp area. But the performances overcome any twitches, and you may not care.
“Gypsy” continues at Musical Theater Heritage, 635 No. Delmorr Ave., in Morrisville, PA through July 29. Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m.; Sundays at 2 p.m.(215) 295-3694.