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Triangle Downtowner Magazine

Kiss from a (Gypsy) Rose

Nov 19, 2017 12:40PM ● By Lamarr Fowlkes

Amidst the various sexual harassment allegations against celebrities populating the present, big-time Broadway musical Gypsy arrives in a culture that is re-examining the gender politics and practices of several sex based industries. Based off the 1957 memoir of striptease Gypsy Rose Lee, Gypsy is the evolution of Louise Hovick to Gypsy Rose Lee. Under her guidance of her stage-mom Madame Rose, she is raised alongside her sister une as a performer, their mother’s desire for stardom and dreams of hitting it big invariably highlighting the bright lights and harsh realities of showbiz.

Initially a traveling family act with support from several utility performers, Madame Rose is intent on keeping them together in her pursuit of fame even as her children begin to age and grow out of the characters they play. As her lover and the group’s agent, quintessential good guy Herbie tries to explain to her they are becoming young women, she fires back that they’re not and they never will be, unable to grasp the truth around her. After June is courted away as a solo attraction and her disgruntled background players depart, she redirects all of her attention to Louise in a desperate attempt to salvage their fading act and volunteers her as replacement for a headlining stripper. Louise meek shyness gives way to Gypsy’s empowered boldness as her career takes off and leaves the confines of her mother’s machinations. Though it subtly raises a conservative question of the avenues women have to go through to achieve stardom, it’s the liberal choice of profession and lack of shame that tells a tale of female empowerment.

Christine Sherrill’s delusional and frantic portrayal of Madame Rose is equal parts Joan Crawford (as accounted in “Mommie Dearest”) and Judy Garland (as depicted in “Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows”), juxtaposed with the heartfelt moments that show the protectiveness she has for her daughters and affection she has for Herbie. Mary Mattison’s portrays teen/adult Louise with a quiet sincerity and to striking effect once she evolves to Gypsy, her striptease a tantalizing lesson in dance. Having previously seen Skyla I'Lece Woodard in Theatre Raleigh's production of The Secret Garden, I was delighted to see her again as the not a baby anymore Baby June. Gypsy is a throwback behind the scenes look at the waning days of the Vaudeville circuit. A charming, hysterical and thought provoking affair. It is currently playing at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium through tonight November 19. For more information, please visit: