Mama Rose may not have succeeded in becoming an entertainer, but Charis Leos is a star in Maine State Music Theatre’s “Gypsy.” And Leos and company definitely entertain you.
Following on the heels of “Les Miserables,” “Gypsy” is, on the surface, a much lighter production. The score is infectious, featuring such well-known songs as “Let Me Entertain You” and “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” There are also plenty of well-timed laughs throughout the two acts. The musical, though, is not without emotional depth.
Leos performs with an onstage ease that elicits natural, unforced laughs, but she also has a knack for delivering honest emotion.
She was feisty Friday as Mama Rose, belting out gusty renditions of the songs, with an unwavering strength and energy that captured both her character’s determination and disappointment. “Rose’s Turn” garnered her well-deserved applause.
Maine State Music Theatre has chosen a versatile cast to portray the colorful characters in Mama Rose’s life.
Missy Dowse delivered a standout performance Friday as Rose’s daughter Louise, who grew up in the shadow of her sister, June, played by Cary Michele Miller. Dowse’s portrayal nicely highlighted Louise’s youthful innocence, making her transformation from plain-Jane Louise into Gypsy Rose Lee all the more dramatic and impressive. She was almost unrecognizable as the self-confident, statuesque burlesque stripper.
“Little Lamb” showcased Dowse’s sweet, clear vocals, and Dowse and Miller harmonized beautifully on “If Momma Were Married.”
Patrons who saw “Les Miserables” may notice that a total of 14 cast members have transitioned to “Gypsy.” But, like Gypsy Rose Lee, most of their transformations are dramatic, highlighting their acting range.
The most striking metamorphoses are from Heidi Kettenring and Tyler Hanes. Kettenring was a sight to see Friday as Electra, dressed in a skimpy costume, with light-up stars and blue feathers. Her transition from the “virtuous” Fantine in “Les Miserables” to the fan-tailed stripper in “Gypsy” couldn’t have been more drastic, or fun.
Hanes also delivered a polar-opposite performance in “Gypsy.” There wasn’t even a hint of the student revolutionary, Enjolras, in his performance as Tulsa on Friday. His rich-voiced stoicism has been replaced by an amusing light-hearted campiness. As Tulsa, Hanes sure can dance.
Chuck Ragsdale, who fought alongside Hanes in “Les Miserables,” also appears in “Gypsy” in a variety of roles, including the very funny Uncle Jocko. David Girolmo morphs fabulously from the Bishop of Digne into “Gypsy’s” endearing Herbie. And Abby Smith, who was Madame Thenardier in “Les Miserables,” continues to crack up the audience as “Gypsy’s” trumpet-playing stripper, Mazeppa.
“Gypsy” also features a cast of young performers that includes Alec Shiman (Gavroche in “Les Miserables”), who has been resurrected as a spunky newsboy in “Gypsy.” Madeleine Blakemore and Julia Yameen are charming as Baby Louise and Baby June.
Other performers include Glenn Anderson as Rose’s dad and Susan Cella amusingly cast as Tessie Tura. Jimmy McDonald (L.A.), Michael Biren (Yonkers), Michael Notardonato (Angie), Jericah Jo Potvin (Agnes) and Mary Beth Donahoe (Renee) are thoroughly enjoyable as June and Louise’s showbiz cohorts.
Steve Calzaretta (Weber/Cigar) and an ensemble of performers round out the 29-member cast.
“Gypsy” is a winsome production that strives to entertain, with fun characters and catchy songs. At MSMT, it succeeds, making Mama Rose’s dream come true.
April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at: