What is it? One of the quintessential musicals of the 20th century, Gypsy: A Musical Fable is the story of a woman who will stop at nothing to see her daughters become famous, leading one into a career as cabaret legend Gypsy Rose Lee (played by Emily Wilhoit, pictured).
Why see it? Gypsy offers up classic numbers like "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Let Me Entertain You" wrapped in a clever and funny (and a little provocative) story that's strikingly relevant nearly 50 years after it premiered. Broadway productions have included stage divas Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, and Patti LuPone.
Who should go? Musical lovers (it is Sondheim after all) and anyone looking to reminisce with a 20th-century favorite.
PICCOLO SPOLETO • $25 • 2 hours 30 min. • May 23, 28, 30, June 6, 7 at 8 p.m.; May 24, 31 at 7 p.m.; May 25, June 1, 8 at 3 p.m. • Village Playhouse, 730 Coleman Blvd., Mt. Pleasant • (888) 374-2656
Stories about demanding stage mothers and the hell they caused have likely been told since the lights first went up on Broadway. And as far as these tales go, one of the most poignant is that of real-life Gypsy Rose Lee, who climbed out of her mother's insurmountable aspirations to become a burlesque legend.
Gypsy : A Musical Fable chronicles that rise, but the story centers on her mother, Rose. She dotes on her other, more talented daughter, who eventually runs off. That leaves Rose to shape what she can out of plain Louise, who becomes Gypsy.
The 1959 musical by Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents, and Jule Styne is still a Broadway favorite, with stage divas Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, and now Patti LuPone becoming the world's most demanding stage mother.
Those unfamiliar with the play likely know some of the songs. They weave through Rose's relentless push toward stardom for her girls, including "Everything's Coming Up Roses," along with "Small World" and "Let Me Entertain You."
The local production from the Village Playhouse and the Company Company first hit the stage back in October, but it's returning for another round for Piccolo.
It's one of the best musicals ever, says director Maida Libkin, who, not surprisingly, can't pick a favorite number. Fans of the show may be pleased to know Libkin did little to alter the successful Gypsy formula.
"It's been done a lot, but it hasn't been done a lot in Charleston," she says. "For the most part, I wanted to communicate the integrity of the piece."
Anyone who has seen a show at the modest Village Playhouse would not be surprised to learn producers had to get creative with set design. There are no less than 11 scenes in the first act alone, "and they just keep going," says Libkin.
The modular set design is equipped to split up and turn different ways to provide the looks needed, from the vaudeville circuit to a burlesque house.
The cast includes Kathy Summer as the demanding Rose and Emily Wilhoit as Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee. Father/daughter combo Bill Schlitt and Johanna Schlitt round out the central cast as Rose's lover and the girls' manager, Herbie, and the talented sister, June. A key phrase in the show is "Make 'em beg for more."