Review: “Gypsy” (Theatre Cedar Rapids)

From the moment that Jan McCool shouts Mama Rose’s first directions at her young daughters, Theatre Cedar Rapids production of the classic musical Gypsy sucks you in to the world of Mama Rose and her daughters Louise and June.

TCR’s production, which opened Friday at McKinley Middle School, runs about three hours long (correct me if I’m wrong. Please) yet runs along and feels like the show takes a mere hour-and-a-half. This is probably because of how smoothly the show flows from scene to scene, even with set changes, done by actors in minor roles.

I can honestly say that I never been amused, enthralled, entertained, and moved while attending the theater.

The company utilize the smaller stage in the McKinley Auditorium very well. Instead of elegant set pieces, tiny panels are flipped around and furniture items are brought onstage. When all of the panels have the back facing the audience, it gives the impression of a stage or backstage of a theater very well. There’s no orchestra pit, so the musicians are onstage (although, I’ve been to shows in theaters with larger stages that had musicians onstage). But I rarely noticed the musicians because I was so caught up in the show.

McCool commands the stage with a presence almost too large to be contained in the auditorium. Combined with a great voice, the numbers “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Rose’s Turn” made me regret not waterproofing my mascara. Katie Knutson, who plays Louise, has a dainty yet tomboyish as the character. Knutson also has a beautiful voice that makes it an absolute joy to listen to her sing.

Brian Anderson plays the role of Herbie, an ulcer possessing salesman that later becomes June and Rose’s agent, with delicate grace making the character sensitive, comical, and strong. Anderson also possesses a strong, delightful singing voice that made me wish Herbie had more numbers. Jourdan Hougham, who plays the role of June, is wonderful during the time she’s on stage. The duet that she has with Knutson is excellent to listen to thanks to their gifted voices.

Joyce Niebuhr, SanDee Skelton, and Carole Martin as the three strippers Tessie, Mazeppa, and Electra (respectively) are a riotous trio onstage making “You Gotta Get A Gimmick” the most amusing part of the show with sight gags galore.

The ensemble of the show also helps with making it an excellent production. Even those with the smallest roles boosted the show and made it a production that made me very pleased with the fact that I drove an hour to Cedar Rapids to see it.

Although Theatre Cedar Rapids has been displaced due to the 2008 Iowa Flood, they are still providing the same quality amateur theatre that was put on in the Iowa Theatre Building. This production of Gypsy proved to me that there can still be wonderful amateur theatre in Iowa under adverse circumstances. So, “curtain up, light the lights”, go see this wonderful musical while you can.

Gypsy runs at McKinley Middle School until September 7th. Tickets are available on TCR’s website. I’m too lazy to link it, so just Google “Theatre Cedar Rapids”

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