About once a year now, The Mountain Play comes down from atop Mt. Tam’s 3,750-seat Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre and joins forces with the Ross Valley Players to present a classic Broadway musical in the 99-seat Barn Theater at the Marin Art and Garden Center. This year it’s Gypsy, A Musical Fable, the Arthur Laurents/Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim collaboration that has been an audience favorite since its debut over sixty years ago. Curiously absent from the Mountain Play’s repertoire, it’s absent no more as the show runs in Ross through Dec. 18.
Mama Rose (Dyan McBride), the mother of all stage mothers, will stop at nothing to make her daughter Baby June (Alexandra Fry) a vaudeville child star. When the maturing June (Julia Ludwig) tires of the efforts to maintain the myth of youth and the dream of hitting it big, Rose turns to her oft-neglected daughter Louise (Jill Jacobs). An unexpected booking in a sleazy house of burlesque leads to the creation of the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee.
Director Zoë Swenson-Graham, fresh off of the Mountain Play’s production of Hello, Dolly! (also starring McBride), does yeoman’s work bringing a BIG musical to the Barn’s small stage. McBride makes for a formidable Mama Rosa, and is well supported by Jacobs, Fry, Ludwig, and DC Scarpelli as Herbie, the put-upon manager and erstwhile fiancée to Rose.
The cast of thirteen often does double, triple, and quadruple duty which works for many roles but doesn’t for others. The use of (mostly) adults in what are clearly roles for younger people lessens the impact of Rose’s efforts to maintain a child act well past its expiration date.
Recorded musical tracks provide the score for such memorable songs as “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”, “Together Wherever we Go”, and “You Gotta Have A Gimmick”, a show highlight as performed by Tanika Baptiste, Libby Oberlin, and Michaela Marymor.
The use of tracks combined with no vocal amplification made the well-delivered vocals feel like they stopped at the stage’s edge rather than filling the theater.
It was akin to watching a recording of a great live stage show on a television set. You’re gonna enjoy everything you see and hear, just not in the way it was originally meant to be experienced.
‘Gypsy, A Musical Fable’ runs Thurs – Sun through Dec. 18 at the Barn Theatre in the Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. Thurs, 7:30; Fri & Sat, 8 pm; Sun, 2 pm. $40. 415.383.1100. rossvalleyplayers.com.
Photos by Robin Jackson
This review originally appeared in an edited version in the Pacific Sun.