I usually like to approach musicals like I prepare for a concert – listening to the album to get pumped up for the show. This time, I went into Hammer Entertainment’s Gypsy with a fresh mind. Only the distant sounds of the film version’s soundtrack were with me. Gypsy is one of those classic Broadway musicals that I saw at a very young age. The sounds and images from the 1962 film version starring Natalie Wood stayed with me and of course, the classic original Broadway cast soundtrack on our old cassette tape featuring Ethel Merman.
Gypsy (which runs until February 7th) is Hammer Entertainment’s second production in their 2014-2015 season. They opened up with The Addams Family this past fall and will stage Jekyll And Hyde from April 24th to May 2nd. Auditions for Jekyll and Hyde are coming up from February 10-15th. Hammer Entertainment was founded in 2007 by creative director Jason Dick, who says that this season in particular will showcase “what Hammer is really made of.”
I was happy to be in the audience during Gypsy‘s opening weekend, for just their second performance. It’s always a neat feeling to be reintroduced to something you saw as a child and have the sounds and images flood back to you as you watch. Right from the first few notes of the famous Overture, I felt that familiarity right away. There’s nothing like being in a theatre when the lights dim and the music begins. The 7-piece band onstage were just fantastic and played this vibrant score so well.
Shari Vandermolen is an absolute powerhouse in the demanding role of Rose. Every song she sang gave me chills. One of my favourite songs in the play, “Some People,” was the first number to do that. Shari lit up the stage with her tremendous energy and emotion in every scene and she was a joy to watch. The play is bookended by “Some People” and “Rose’s Turn,” another favourite of mine. As much as the play is about famous burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, we follow the aggressive stage mother Rose on her journey too.
I almost forgot how many child actors would be needed for this production. All of the children were adorable and seven-year-old Grace Purdy as Baby June was a little firecracker up there!
In the role of Louise, who eventually becomes Gypsy Rose Lee, Hannah Vandeven had the same elegance and grace that Natalie Wood brought to the film role. During Louise’s early days, she was pushed aside, and it’s a tricky balance to remain understated yet always be noticed by the audience. We always connected with Louise because of Hannah’s lovely and poised performance.
Another aspect I like about Gypsy is that the burlesque content is treated with a lot of humour, and of course emotion. One of my favourite numbers is also “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” as performed by three burlesque performers, played by Aimee Kessler Evans, Bethany Charters, and Lisa Cardinali.
With such a huge cast, there are too many to name; the whole cast was just spot on. The chorus boys, played by Markus Carreiro, Ryan Miller, Carl Kersey, and Michael Patricelli were so fun to watch and Rebekah Houpt as June was so dynamic. Bravo to the cast and director Lauren Repei on an entertaining show!
Gypsy continues its run this week:
February 5th at 8pm
February 6th at 8pm
February 7th at 2pm and 8pm
Note: I received a media pass from Hammer Entertainment, but all thoughts about the event are my own.