Monday, February 15, 2016

Throwback Review - Gypsy at Theater Latte Da in 2006

We caught a preview of Theater Latte Da's Gypsy this week, but as they're using previews to tweak the show, we saw a work in progress. And poor Michelle Barber was under the weather (but still did a fantastic job).
My program from 2006. Love all
the exclamation points!

Instead, let me take you back to October 2006, the last time Theater Latte Da produced Gypsy. In those days, Theater Latte Da often performed at The Loring Playhouse, located right around the corner from the Basilica. The theater was not terribly accessible, with a tall flight of steep stairs leading to the theater space, and the bathrooms were way down the hall, basically located in the office building next door.

Nonetheless, I feel incredibly nostalgic about Theater Latte Da's years there. I saw some of the best musical theater ever in that space.

In the last ten years, I've seen about 600 shows, and yet I still remember Theater Latte Da's 2006 production of Gypsy with affection.  (Although I still had to dig the program out to refresh my memory.) Both productions are/were directed by Peter Rothstein and music directed by Denise Prosek. I was a little surprised to see that Tod Petersen (as Herbie) and Eriq Nelson (as all of the adult male characters) reprise their roles in the current production.

Back to 2006 ... As Mama Rose, Jody Briskey had a staggeringly powerful presence (and belt!), and Simone Perrin brought Louise from shy wallflower to star with believable awkwardness and charming ease. The intimate, slightly rundown Loring Playhouse space lent a marvelous authenticity to the production. When not "on stage" the actors would sit in chairs alongside the stage, some playing instruments. This was long before we had ever heard of John Doyle (the director who had Patti LuPone's Mrs. Lovett playing a tuba in Sweeney Todd), and the effect was of a group of people telling this story with authenticity.

But what I remember most about this production is the trio of Erik Pearson (Tulsa), Randy Schmeling (Angie), and Reid Harmsen (Yonkers), who played the Newsboys, the Farmboys, and the Toreadorables. They also played (in order) Electra, Tessie Tura, and Mazeppa. They brought an unbelievable sweetness to their parts, particularly as the strippers. Gypsy gets a little dark, but their sincere and committed performances added the perfect amount of heart. (And their stripper costumes, by Rich Hamson, were wonderful!)

I wish Theatre Latte Da as much success with this production of Gypsy as with their previous production. Thanks for all the great years of musical theater, Peter Rothstein and company!