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Gypsy Coming to Sharon Playhouse

Theater preview
by Kevin T. McEneaney
Sun Jun 5th, 2016

Depending on whom you talk to, Gypsy is either the greatest musical ever to hit the stage or it is merely in the top three greatest musicals. Just out of college, young Stephen Sondheim dithered about taking the job as lyricist because under the terms of the contract he would not receive credit for the lyrics but Oscar Hammerstein encouraged him to sign the contract anyway. He did. And that led to his next contract as lyricist for Leonard Bernstein (and again Sondheim did not get credit, but his career was made).

Sharon Playhouse opens its summer season with Gypsy, Directed and choreographed by experienced Broadway director Richard Stafford (who directed the play a decade ago). While the music is by Jule Styne and the story book by Arthur Laurents (based upon the 1957 memoir of Gypsy Rose Lee that memorializes a mother intent on preparing her two daughters for a stage career), it is Sondheim’s lyrics that captivated the theater world with songs like "Everything's Coming up Roses", "Together (Wherever We Go)", "Small World", "Some People", "Let Me Entertain You", "All I Need Is the Girl", and "Rose's Turn."

The theme of the play centers on ambition, a theme that usually fails utterly in the novel genre, but has been dramatic grist for the English-speaking stage since William Shakespeare employed it in so many of his tragedies like Macbeth, Hamlet, Henry V, Julius Caesar, and Antony and Cleopatra. While Shakespeare saw all known history as a stage for his pen, Americans prefer the smaller drama focused on the plight of individual persona amid a changing social and cultural landscape.

Last Friday evening, after just four rehearsals, Managing Director of Sharon Playhouse Justin Ball opened his doors without charge to the public for  "first look” at the rehearsal process that excerpted scenes in the musical’s first act. The results were a promising appetizer for this local production that features excellent singing and dancing.

As is traditional, star Karen Ziemba, a Tony-award winner, recording artist, and Broadway sensation for the past decade, did not appear. The convention of the experienced lead actor not appearing until the last few rehearsals, or even dress rehearsal, remains a dramatic climax for a director and actor to exploit.

Ethel Merman’s performance in the original production became a Broadway legend. Excitement about this production has built up from as far away as Boston and New York City. For theater enthusiasts, this is a production not to be missed. Gypsy runs from June 16 through July 3 at Sharon Playhouse. Opening Night is June 16 at 7:00pm.

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