'Gypsy' a sparkling biography of burlesque

By Jeff Johnson
Post and Courier Reviewer
Saturday, October 27, 2007

"Gypsy," that legendary musical biography of Miss Gypsy Rose Lee, is presented by The Company Company and The Village Repertory Company to packed houses at The Village Playhouse in Mount Pleasant.

If you think there was no classic age of American musical theatre, you need to rush out this weekend or next to see this sparkling production.

Arthur Laurents' book moves swiftly with lots of witty touches, while creating complex characters. All of Jule Styne's music is tuneful, and many of the songs are famous including "You Gotta Have A Gimmick," which stops the show, thanks to the blinking lights, dainty movements and braying horn of the three comic strippers (Samantha Andrews, Kain Cameron and Keely Enright). Stephen Sondheim provides lyrics that allow the music to move the action and go from breezy comic turns to the poignant passion of "Rose's Turn," movingly sung by Kathy Summer.

Rose is the iconic stage mother dragging her daughters, Baby June and Baby Louise, from one vaudeville stand to another. Summers can belt out the stage-mother numbers and can shift emotional gears to capture the emotional sincerity of her love for Herbie, a weak lover, whom William Schlitt endows with a remarkable amount of inner strength. Rose's Louise is transformed into the sensual Gypsy Rose Lee in the last half of the show, and Emily Wilhoit is convincing as the woman who made burlesque respectable.