Long before helicopter moms earned a bad rap for hovering over their offspring, there were mothers who enjoyed visions of stardom for their precious and precocious wannabe stars. The truth, unfortunately,is that commanding mamas really craved the spotlight for themselves and used their children to achieve what they were never able to earn on their own. To gain an insight into one of the most determined “stage mothers,” one who was aggressive, pushy, and obsessed with show business, come meet Mama Rose, the maternal pit bull, overseeing the careers of her young daughters June and Louise. As the queen of smothering stage mothers, Mama Rose was uniquely suited to her task, advancing the marketing of her two little princesses of song and dance, with the goal of making them stars.
To meet Mama Rose and her darlings of vaudeville, let the book by Arthur Laurents, the music of Jule Styne and the lyrics of Stephen Sondheim entertain you in the colorful musical “Gypsy,” prancing across the spotlights of Goodspeed Musicals in East Haddam until Sunday, June 25.
The incomparable Judy McLane is the perfectly passionate parent, the guiding force and iron ruler of her precious progeny, Emily Jewel Hoder and Laura Sky Herman portray Baby June and Dainty June respectively while Cameron Blake Miller and Talia Suskauer capture Baby Louise and grown up Louise. June and Louise will later be better known as June Havoc and Gypsy Rose Lee.
Both girls rebel as they grow older, June running off at a young age to marry and Louise abandoning vaudeville for burlesque, establishing herself as a stripper at Minsky’s. Using humor and song as she shed her clothes, Louise reinvented herself as Gypsy Rose Lee and a queen of her genre, with a furl of feathers and flashy costumes. Philip Hernandez does an admirable turn as Herbie, the group’s agent and Rose’s infinitely patient love interest. Jenn Thompson takes credit for direction and Patricia Wilcox for choreography, Alexander Dodge for a great set and Eduardo Sicangco for costuming. “Gypsy” is based on the book written by the star who was born in Seattle, Washington in 1911, performed in movies as an actress and dancer, wrote murder mysteries and called Otto Preminger her boyfriend. Songs like “Some People,” “Small World,” “Let Me Entertain You,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Together Wherever We Go” and “Rosie’s Turn” propel the plot. “You Gotta Get a Gimmick” with the strippers Mazeppa (Romelda Teron Benjamin), Electra (Victoria Huston- Elem) and Tessie (Valerie Wright) practically stops the show.
For tickets ($30 and up), call Goodspeed Musicals, East Haddam on the Connecticut River at 860-873-8668 or online at Goodspeed.org. Performances are Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., Thursday at 7:30 p.m. (with select 2 p.m. shows), Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m. (with select 6:30 p.m. shows). Check out the specials available online.
Clearly everything’s coming up roses for this delightful classic musical theater production that sparkles and shines and shimmers with passion.