By Myra Chanin . . .
Run, do not walk, and get tickets to The Wick Theater’s Gypsy! Listen to me! You won’t be sorry! The Wick Theater’s Gypsy in Boca Raton is as close to perfection as a musical can be anywhere, including Broadway and London’s West End. Gypsy is about the quintessential Stage Mother, Mama Rose, who spends her life trying to turn one/both of her daughters into stars.
When did I suspect the performance would be flawless? The instant the trumpets played the first striking note of the overture, the fanfare to “I’ve Got a Dream,” and immersed me in a melody-packed score. My toes tapped their way through the buoyant “Everything’s Comin’ up Roses.” My shoulders swung and swayed to “You’ll Never Get Away from Me,” and “Small World,” and after one last fanfare, when the curtain rose on a stage lined with the kiddies in perfectly horrible, homemade costumes, ready to strut their stuff on Seattle’s Uncle Jocko’s Kiddie Show, I knew everything would be coming up roses.
Let’s start with the creators of Gypsy which combined the virtuosity of four amazing artistes. The composer, Jule Styne, the playwright/director Arthurs Laurents and two genuine geniuses: Stephen Sondheim who supplied deliciously witty lyrics like these:
No fits, no fights, no feuds and no egos
and choreographer/director Jerome Robbins, who the genius Stephen Sondheim declared was the only genius he’d ever associated with. Can you imagine their amazement when the very treacly Song of Music took the Tony Award home? Politics? Maybe, or simply the follow-the-money conviction that sentimentality sells more tickets than tales about the real facts of life.
Before I wax lyrical about Laura Hodos’s top-notch Mama Rose, let me sing the praises of the supporting cast of usually overlooked local professionals, who often play several less exalted roles, but expertly alter their expressions, attire and body language to fit the persona they are becoming.
The Wick’s Gypsy makes you snap to attention with its opening lines:
Everybody—SHUT UP! . . . All mothers—out!
barked by Troy J. Stanley’s Uncle Jocko, in a tartan hat and fake horn-rimmed glasses. Next seen as Cigar, a Burlesque House manager. He also performs in the Ensemble, Stanley’s an accomplished Florida-based vocalist and actor with thirteen prior appearances at The Wick. He will be starring in Ben Butler as Ben Butler later this season at the nearby Boca Stage.
David Nagy makes his mark in the next scene as Mama Rose’s reluctantly supportive, and reappears as the miserable hotel landlord, Mr. Klingelein and in the ensemble. Nagy lives in Hollywood, FL with his cat, Bandit, and four Carbonell Awards for Music Direction – hardly shlepper credits either.
Wayne Legette follows a few scenes later as Weber, another child-hating theater manager, the eggroll-loving Mr. Goldstone and the understudy for Gypsy’s male lead. Legette’s a two-time Carbonell Award Winner who previously starred in several Wick shows and will be playing the lead during The Wick’s next season as Applegate in Damn Yankees.
There’s also Aaron Bower–as the stripper with the trumpet gimmick; Mallory Newbrough as Tessie Tura, whose bump won’t grind and Britte Steele, the ecdysiast that glows in the dark –all local actors who have toured and performed nationally.
Everyone in the ensemble infuses minor parts with as much thought and feeling as most actors reserve for starring roles. I really felt that everyone in the cast, including each one of the dancers, deserved a curtain call of his/her/their very own.
I’ve seen every Broadway Mama Rose there is, from the first, mean, bossy, cold Ethel Merman to Bette Midler, Bernadette Peters, Tyne Daly, even Tovah Feldshuh in the backwoods of Bristol, PA. Until now, I felt Tyne Dale was the most complicated, but now Laura Hodes replaces Daly at the top of my heap. Hodes, an actor/singer/cabarista, multi-award-winning resident of Orlando, is more than a voice and a body. She plays herself, a real woman, as if she were in Mama Rosa’s shoes. You truly felt her sense of betrayal and lack of understanding when both of her daughters desert her and act like their eventual fame was through their own efforts rather than hers.
Matthew K. Korinko made his Wick debut as the irresistible Herbie, Rose’s agent/lover, a devoted suitor, foolishly believing she would keep her promise to be his wife. Korinko reminds me of the men I was surrounded by growing up in the decades around WWII. They wore hats, suits, starched white shirts and striped ties. They didn’t question their gender affiliations. He did what they were supposed to do. Herb is slightly husky, but he moves and spins Rose around like a guy who learned to fox-trot watching Fred Astaire.
Hats in the air for both Baby Junes, Alejandra Bess/Addie James, for their ability to endlessly sing, dance and split to the phoniest song ever written, “Let Me Entertain You,” and to the Baby Louises for their grace in performing the half of the cow that eats. And three cheers for Kristi Rose Mills’ Dainty June, who deserves congrats for getting away from Mama and to Melissa Whitworth’s untalented Louise who discovers her flair and makes the most of her lack of technique.
Hip, hip, hurrahs for the Wick’s crew starting with Director Bob Joerder and Adolpho Blaire who recreated Jerome Robbins original choreography and their dancers who delivered every step on the way!! The Kimberly Wicks sets were extraordinary as was Katie Whittemore’s Lighting, Josieu Jean’s projections, Jim Buff’s Costumes and Justin Lore’s Wigs. Marilynn A. Wick, Managing Executive Producer is right to proudly present the Wick’s Gypsy, as memorable in depicting down and dirties of the theatrical lifestyle as Fiddler on the Roof’s portrayal of the anxiety of living in Anatevke.
Sondheim’s lyrics show the beginning of his greatness. No phony lines like, “I feel charming and witty and bright,” which he was forced to contribute to West Side Story and which he regretted writing for the rest of his life. No. The lyrics for Gypsy lead to Company, where he was in complete control and could pen the Q&A everyone remembers from Company: “Where you going? Barcelona.” Is there a more apt answer about the life of a flight attendant
Gypsy is being performed at The Wick Theater, 7901 N. Federal Hwy, Boca Raton FL thru Sunday February 12, 2022, Box Office 561-995-2333 Email: Boxoffice@thewick.org
Here’s the schedule:
Saturday 2/5/2022 @ 7:30 pm, Sunday 2/6/2022 @2:00 pm, Wednesday 2/9/2022 @ 2:00 pm & 7:30 pm, Thursday 2/10/2022 @ 2:00 pm & 7:30 pm, Friday 2/11/2022 @ 7:30 pm, Saturday 2/12/2022 @ 2:00 pm and 7:30 pm & Sunday 2/12/2022 @ 2:00pm.
PHOTOS: Amy Pasquantonio
(Lead Photo: Laura Hodes, Matthew K. Korinko)