“Gypsy” – Phoenix Theatre

This review aired on KBAQ March 12, 2012


Phoenix Theatre
Phoenix, AZ

Broadway arrived at Phoenix Theatre in a smashing production of the marvelous but challenging musical “Gypsy” starring longtime local star Kathy Fitzgerald who left over 17 years ago to appear in several Broadway musicals.

Not only is the production great but many outstanding local talents support Fitzgerald tremendously.  Fitzgerald achieves what top female musical theater stars hope to by triumphing as the dastardly Mama Rose, that demented stage struck mother who achieves the stardom she never did through her daughters, June and Louise.

The role was originally created by longtime musical theater star Ethel Merman in what was said to be her most outstanding performance.  Since “Gypsy” opened in 1959, many legendary musical theater stars have played her with each leaving their unique stamp on the role.  Against those formidable talents, Fitzgerald creates a memorable Rose.  There’s nothing new about Fitzgerald’s Rose but she’s taken bits and pieces of the famous Roses to create a comprehensive picture of the desperate, driving, demented, and insecure person who lives through her daughters.  Fitzgerald brings the vibrancies and glaring personality flaws to her interpretation.  A truly successful Rose makes audiences hate her and that Fitzgerald achieves.  And Fitzgerald sings the role better than any of the famous stars I’ve seen as Rose.  No, I missed Merman’s interpretation by one year but I’ve seen just about every other famous Rose and many others.

But there’s so much more to this “Gypsy” than just Fitzgerald’s commanding performance.  The show includes several children and all are drilled to perfection and boast a professional sheen often lacking in “Gypsy” productions.  Jenny Hintze plays the adult Louise, who becomes the famous stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, and Hintze’s routines couldn’t be better.  D. Scott Withers is the perfect Herbie, the guy Rose wants but her abuse forces him to leave.  The trio of strippers – Johanna Carlisle, Lisa Fogel, and Andi Watson – who convince Louise to try burlesque stop the show with the hysterical “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.”

Director Michael Barnard creates a throbbing, dynamic, and briskly moving production that swiftly navigates the complicated story with effortless ease.  Even the multiple sets are efficiently handled by Barnard who, like Broadway, has staged scenic changes as part of “Gypsy” so it never pauses.  Splashy costumes add as does Alan Ruch’s pulsating orchestra.

“Gypsy” is a tough show to successfully stage but everything about the Phoenix Theatre production works from Kathy Fitzgerald’s commanding presence as Rose to the smallest role.  It continues through April 1.  Don’t miss it.  For tickets, call the Phoenix Theatre box office at 602-254-2151 or order tickets online at www.phoenixtheatre.com.

Grade: A