By Oscar Hunter, Creative Director and Mark Ross, Co-Editor-in-Chief
It is always a difficult thing reviewing student performances, especially those adaptations of beloved musicals, so we thank the UoB Musical Theatre Society for making this review so easy: it was a hit!
Gypsy is a musical in which the main character, Rose, is a struggling single mother who wants her children to be stars in Vaudeville, something that she failed to do in her youth. She meets Herbie, her lover and the children’s agent, and they set off to achieve their dreams, but not everything goes to plan…
From a technical standpoint, this production was competent and well executed. The lighting always hit at the right time, the spotlight never strayed, and the players knew exactly where and how to stand. One thing that we found particularly impressive for a student production was the costumes; they seemed to subtly denote the personalities and changes in the characters.
The ensemble cast were also fantastic. We would be doing our esteemed paper a disservice if we did not shoutout our very own Marine Saint, who was wonderful in the ensemble, singing and tap-dancing her heart out! But the whole ensemble cast were able to strike a balance between being background dressing, and also occasionally stealing the show with punchy line delivery and tonnes of charisma.
Herbie and Louise, the two main characters beside Rose, were equally brilliant. Herbie was able to channel the transition from emasculated goof-ball, to serious and confident man, incredibly skilfully, and Louise's transition from a shy mama’s girl content with the background, to raunchy and sexy burlesque sensation, completely blew us away!
The mercurial Abigail Wander rose (excuse the pun) to the challenge of playing the part-mother-part-agent protagonist. Wander covered the full spectrum of musical disciplines - from singing and dancing to intimate dialogue and physical acting - to convey a character who evokes feelings of sympathy, outrage and respect from the audience.
Sharp dialogue and running jokes punctuate the show with regular bursts of audience laughter. One number, “Let me entertain you”, was particularly hilarious with its repeated use of quirky props and its show-within-a-show irony. Rose’s steadfast denial of her children’s ageing is equally as hilarious: “I am nine going on ten” / “and how long has that been going on for?”.
And director Sam Sayan’s creative staging produced some ethereal scenes amongst the cacophony of musical hits. Moments such as Tulsa’s monologue, backed by a beautiful dancing duet, created a compelling contrast in tone throughout the performance. All of which was driven by the wondrous band who, despite being hidden below the stage, galvanised the performance of the cast above them and created a booming soundscape for the audience.
Special mention must go to the burlesque dancers and members of Rose’s menagerie, who demonstrated herculean stamina in their dancing routines and musical numbers. Mazeppa and Baby June in particular added even more flair to the already electric performances.
MTB’s Gypsy remained in the minds of Epigram’s veteran reviewers long past the fall of the stage curtain. Excitedly comparing notes in the pub afterwards, we couldn’t stop discussing the spectacle: is Rose a good person? What do you think happens to Gypsy in the end? Why was the bass player in the band so cool?
We would like to thank MTB for a wonderful night of entertainment and an easy review to write. Epigram was more than happy for the talented cast to “let them entertain us” for an evening of veritably varied and vibrant Vaudeville.
Featured Image: Courtesy of Ryan Cho
What did you think of MTB's Gypsy: A Musical Fable?