Those who attend Stephens College’s upcoming production of “Gypsy” might leave with more of a sense of empathy toward Mama Rose than they previously had.
That’s because guest director Millie Garvey has researched the family to gain a little more insight into why Rose is considered the “ultimate show business mother.”
For those not familiar with the story of “Gypsy”—based on the memoirs of Rose’s daughter, performer Gypsy Rose Lee—she’s not exactly a likeable character. Rose is determined to see her young daughters become mega stars during the vaudeville circuit in the 1920s. But when the youngest and most promising, June, breaks away from the family—and vaudeville ultimately dies—Louise is forced to bear the brunt of the quest for family fame—and she pays a hefty price.
“It’s easy to hate Mama Rose, but we have to remember the time period,” Garvey said. “It was a man’s world. Today, she would be the equivalent of Kris Kardashian.”
While Garvey doesn’t expect audience members to walk away liking the character, she hopes they will at least see a redeeming quality or two.
“I hope I’ve directed it in a way there is some empathy for her.”
Garvey is a veteran when it comes to “Gypsy.” She’s done the show five times, including choreographing for it and playing a supporting role. For this production, she turned to “American Rose,” a book by Karen Abbott that includes more of June’s perspective of the family, as well as perspective from Gypsy Rose Lee’s son, Erik Preminger. Garvey also relied on the Gypsy archives at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
Although the Stephens production stays true to the classic, Garvey has added a few extras. Expect some interesting effects on stage, as well as some less-prominent characters to have more of a backstory.
First-year student Caitlin Castro is portraying Rose. Third-year student Emily Chatterson will play a grown Louise, and second-year student Chelsea Abercrombie is portraying Dainty June. Local actors from TRYPS Institute at Stephens College, area high schools and community actors will join the cast, portraying young Louise and June, as well as supporting roles. Herbie will be played by Assistant Professor Dan Schultz.
The show starts at 7:30 p.m. May 6-8. Buy tickets here.
Audiences won’t be disappointed, Garvey said.
“The show is a great classic—the music, lyrics and book are so dense and tell the story completely,” she said. “It’s pretty terrific.”
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