Gypsy: A Musical Fable
Arthur Laurents (Book); Julie Styne (Music); Stephen Sondheim (Lyrics)
|Kayla Lee, Dakota Colussi, Ariela Morgenstern,|
Emma Berman & Amber Lee Wunderlich
The show that New York Times revered and feared theatre critic Ben Brantley has referred to as “what may be the greatest of all American musicals” and Times essayist/columnist Frank Hart Rich Jr. once called “Broadway’s own brassy, unlikely answer to King Lear, Gypsy: A Musical Fable in the end is nothing without a Rose who can join a long line of divas of a certain age to try and live up to the original Rose, the incomparable Ethel Merman. After all, there are plenty of big shoes, bigger mouths, and biggest personalities that have preceded any Rose who steps on stage to sing those first few notes of “Some People.”
With the likes of Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, and Imelda Staunton all having tried to outdo each other in the past, what a daunting task for any casting director to undertake to find a show’s Rose. Fortunately for Bay Area Musicals, the search by Artistic Director Matthew McCoy did not have to go far to land Ariela Morgenstern – a San Francisco native with New York credentials – to take her place in that line-up of past Roses and to bring her full acting gusto, gigantic stage presence, and big-voiced singing bravado into the fabled role.
Any doubts about this Rose are quickly erased when she stomps down the theatre’s aisle demanding with a bullying scream, “Sing out, Louise” or when in her opening song she first belts with true clarity and charisma, “I have a dream, a wonderful dream, Papa.” Yes, Arthur Laurents (book), Jule Styne (music), and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) would surely all approve with satisfied smiles that BAM’s Gypsy is headlined by a Rose who will once again knock the socks off her audience with her beautiful bellows of blast as have so many of her predecessors.
|Emma Berman, Chloe Fong & Ariela Morgenstern|
|Ariela Morgenstern & DC Scarpelli|
|Emma Berman & Chloe Fong|
In any production of Gypsy, there is one number that always brings some of the biggest howls from the audience and a chance for the costume designer to go wild with over-the-top comic surprises. When a trumpet-tooting stripper named Mazeppa (Olivia Cabera) begins to place her instrument in the strangest of positions as she instructs novice-stripper Louise how “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” the audience just gets warmed up before her sisters-in-the-trade join her – both a winged, wobbly ballerina named Tessie Tura (Elaine Jennings) and an Electra (Glenna Murillo) whose skimpy costume lights us in revealing places. While the members of the thrusting trio in this production sing with impressive lungs, I found the overall effect of their act to be less imaginative in costume, special effect, and comic technique that those I have seen in the past and thus, at least for me, a bit of a let-down.
For many reasons but all topped by Ariela Morgenstern as Rose herself, Bay Area Musical’s Gypsy: A Musical Fable is a sure-bet to send toes-tapping, voices humming, and big smiles repeatedly grinning as the company does full justice and more to this musical giant among the Great American Musicals of all time.
Rating: 4 E
Gypsy: A Musical Fable continues through December 8, 2019 as a production by Bay Area Musicals at the Alcazar Theatre at 650 Geary Street, San Francisco. Tickets are available online at http://www.bamsf.org/assassins/ for performances Fridays, 8 p.m.; Saturdays, 2 and 8 p.m.; and Sundays, 2 p.m.
Photo Credits: Ben Krantz Studio