It may have been a stroke of genius — or perhaps just dumb luck — that Little Theatre of the Rockies chose to open its 82nd season this weekend, the same weekend the Tony Awards are presented in New York and therefore bringing a much brighter spotlight to the theater world. The fact their opening show is “Gypsy”, one of the best book musicals of the mid-20th century, is a gift to area theatre fans. The fact it stars Greeley native Megan Van De Hay is simply a delight.
This is a story that’s been told many times of a mother pushing her children towards her own vision of stardom and the children struggling to break free. The mother, Rose, sacrifices everything, including her sanity for her daughters’ success, when all along they were really only craving acceptance.
Van De Hay delivers a fierce performance as Rose. She is likable and contemptible at the same time. We feel her pain and we ache for her in her failures. The role of Rose may be, next to Fanny Brice in “Funny Girl”, the most complex and challenging female role in all of music theatre. Van De Hay is more than up to the challenge, and she is a joy to watch, even if we do so with a mixture of sadness and revulsion.
As we always expect at LTR shows, there is plenty of other talent as well. Adriane Wilson, Alyssa Baumgardner, Marco Robinson and Tyler Jensen are all excellent, as is the remainder of the cast.
Although his choreography is a little uninspired, Director John Leonard did a good job pulling this show together in a short rehearsal window, which is always a problem with the first show of a summer stock season.
Angela Steiner’s orchestra was perfectly balanced. Many of the songs have become standards over the years, and they are all performed extraordinarily well. Favorites include “All I Need is the Girl,” “Coming Up Roses” and “Rose’s Turn.”
Designer J. David Blatt’s set was serviceable except for several lengthy scene changes that seemed clumsy and unplanned. Matt Mott’s projections were unnecessarily corny and distracting. Unfortunately, Brian Hapcic’s lighting failed in its basic assignment, which is, of course, to provide illumination.
This is a star vehicle, and it’s difficult to find a star as capable as Van De Hay to pull this show off. As a result, the show is not as much of a staple as many other shows of its era. If you didn’t see the national tour come through the civic center in 1991, you have probably never seen a production of “Gypsy” locally. You have a limited chance here, and a good one, as the show only plays through Sunday.
Bryan VanDriel lives in Greeley and has been active in the arts for over 35 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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