EXTENDED Thru 12/29 GYPSY (Porchlight Music Theatre): Butler is Tour de Force!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2018 Permalink

Porchlight Music Theatre presents GYPSY a musical fable.

OH, MAMA! 

E. Faye Butler (Mama Rose) owns this stage from the moment she steps on it. Her pipes, whether screaming for her way or lifting the rafters in song, are undeniably extraordinary. Butler is a tour de force in her non-stop, dynamic performance! Her commanding presence is palpable. Even if we don’t like this overbearing stage mom hell-bent on making her daughter a superstar, we can’t help but love THIS mama. E. Faye Butler is irresistible!

GYPSY debuted in 1959. The creative team of Arthur Laurents (book), Jule Styne (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) produced the musical loosely based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. Even if you haven’t seen this show, you’ll recognize the iconic songs; Let me entertain you, Everything is coming up roses, and Together, wherever we go. Under the musical direction of David Fiorello, the six piece orchestra sets an upbeat tempo for this vaudevillian-style showcase.

Director Michael Weber masterfully cast Butler in the lead and gave her a terrific supporting ensemble. The show starts with her daughters being young. An effervescent Izzie Rose (Baby June) goes from a cartwheel to the splits to kicking up her leg with a delightful squeal. Adorably looming in the background is Jillian-Giselle (Baby Louise) clad in a lamb costume. The girls sing Let me entertain you with Butler offstage barking orders.

Later, the daughters -now older- Aalon Smith (June) and Daryn Whitney Harrell (Louise) continue in Mama Rose’s productions. Smith channels her younger self’s showbiz charm while a timid Harrell remains contently in the background or in a cow suit. Butler forcefully pushes June to succeed while regularly overlooking Louise. Although Butler continually prioritizes showbiz over everything and everyone, we see glimpses of her vulnerability.  In an unexpectedly loving number, Butler, Harrell and Jose Antonio Garcia (Herbie) playfully sing their promise to stay together. Harrell and Garcia create a hopeful, makeshift family around Butler’s disruptive havoc.

A scene stealing moment occurs when the bawdy broads of burlesque educate Harrell on trade secrets. You gotta get a gimmick is hilariously performed by Dawn Bless (Mazeppa), Melissa Young (Tessie) and Honey West (Electra). These fearless gals are willing to shake it, blow it, light it and twirl it for the audience’s pleasure. The number is a side-splitting riot!

So much to love about this production! Even though Butler definitely leads this superb production of GYSPY, Harrell steps out of the shadow and transforms into her own person. A stunning sequence of strip tease performances (aided by Costume Designer Bill Morey) pushes Harrell into the spotlight. She has become a star! In the final scenes, Harrell is confident and sophisticated but not bitter. Harrell’s Louise has a kindness I haven’t experienced before in this character. Following Butler’s spectacular meltdown in Rose’s Turn, the lovely Harrell arrives onstage seemingly having overheard everything. The mama and daughter share disappointments, forgiveness and leave together for an unexpected happy ending.

GYSPY loved it! I highly, highly recommend it!! Believe me…

It’ll be swell! It’ll be great!

Gonna have the whole city on the plate!

Starting here, starting now,

honey, everything’s coming up roses!         

Oh mama, Porchlight picked the perfect Rose in E. Faye Butler for GYSPY!

Running Time: Two hours and forty minutes includes an intermission

At The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn Street, Chicago

Book by Arthur Laurents

Music by Jule Styne 

Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Directed by Artistic Director Michael Weber

Music Directed by David Fiorello

Choreographed and Associate Directed by Chris Carter

Thursdays at 7:30 p.m.*

Fridays at 8 p.m.**

Saturdays at 4 and 8 p.m. ***

Sunday at 2 p.m.: Nov. 18****, and Nov. 25

Sunday at 6 p.m.: Nov. 4, Nov. 11 and Nov. 18****

*There is an added matinee performance Thursday, Nov. 8 at 1:30 p.m. and no performance Thursday, Oct. 18 or Thursday, Nov. 22

**There is an added 4 p.m. performance Friday, Nov. 23 at 4 p.m.

**** There are two performances Sunday, Nov. 18 at 2 and 6 p.m.

EXTENDED Thru December 29th 

Buy Tickets: PorchlightMusicTheatre.org

For more information and reviews on Chicago theatre, visit Theater in Chicago

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