Mama Rose (Teresa Sanderson) is a force of nature—a stage mother whose sheer determination keeps her two young daughters performing during the dying days of Depression-era vaudeville. When a decision by the act’s star, Rose’s daughter June (Elise Groves), threatens to destroy everything Rose has worked so hard for, we get the iconic Stephen Sondheim/Jule Styne song “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” And the way a director and actor choose to interpret that song can tell you everything about the way they’re looking at the show as a whole.
Gypsy is the kind of show that’s hard to screw up, and Dark Horse Company Theatre’s production nails most of the showcase moments, including the horribly age-inappropriate act June and her sister Louise (Lauren Noll)—who will grow up to be the burlesque legend Gypsy Rose Lee—participate in, a rousing rendition of “Together Wherever We Go” and one of the finer versions of “If Momma Was Married” I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying. The Egyptian Theatre’s small stage has often been a challenging venue for big musicals, but director Tracy Callahan and choreographer William Richardson find creative ways to use the space for dancing and sets. It’s entertainment on a grand scale, even without a grand stage.
But a production of Gypsy really soars when Mama Rose’s drive borders on mania. Sanderson’s performance in the second act is fantastic, hitting the key moments that make Rose as tragic as she is disturbing. Yet there are also occasions when it feels like this production is pulling back on the reins. It happens during the montage of Louise/Gypsy’s growing fame as a stripper, an embrace of physicality that Noll doesn’t entirely sell. And it happens during “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” in which it feels like the title sentiment is more optimism than incantation. As entertaining as this Gypsy is, it gives us a Rose who’s pushy, but not a Rose who’s scary.
Dark Horse Company Theatre
328 Main, Park City
Through July 31