BRATTLEBORO -- Called by one reviewer "the greatest of all American musicals," "Gypsy" has been revived no fewer than four times on Broadway.
And now, once on Fairground Road in Brattleboro.
With powerhouse female leads, a production team that has more than 160 years combined experience and a cast and crew that numbers nearly 100 people and one dog, "Gypsy" will be performed today at 4 p.m., and Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m., in the Brattleboro Union High School Auditorium.
"It’s a classic of American musical history. It’s a show that’s worth doing again and again," said Stage Director Robert Kramsky, who is collaborating with Producer Mitch Davis on their 37th production, including "Gypsy" in 1990. "I can’t help but learn from my mistakes. This is my second chance to do it and to try and get more out of it."
Based on a true story, "Gypsy" is the ultimate tale of an aggressive stage mother. Join Rose, June and Louise in their trip across the United States during the 1920s, when vaudeville was dying and burlesque was born. Arthur Laurent wrote the show based on "Memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee." Jule Styne’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics include familiar favorites "Let Me Entertain You," "Everything’s Coming Up Roses" and "Together Wherever We Go." The original production was a vehicle for Ethel Merman.
An affectionate but honest look at the hardships of show-biz life, "Gypsy" has more depth and dimension than many of classic Broadway shows from its era.
"It’s actually not a very happy musical. It’s definitely got some real emotion," said BUHS senior Aurora Phillips, who plays Louise, the daughter of pushy stage mother Rose, played by Annie Caltrider. "It’s got a little bit of everything. It’s got the happy, cutesy numbers and real depth. There’s quite a bit of humor. It’s got great music."
It’s also an epic undertaking. Full sets, plenty of technical challenges, a bottomless trunk of costumes, slick choreography and a 21-piece pit orchestra make it seem a bit like Broadway-on-Fairground Road. On Tuesday afternoon, the scene in and around auditorium was abuzz with activity and opening night energy.
In the pit orchestra, Music Co-Director Steve Rice and his musicians -- including Gartenstein brothers Ben, Sam and Jacob and trombone player Bob Thies, who appeared on stage in BUHS’ 1990 production -- were smoothing out rough spots, making sure everything was coming up roses and discovering some painful truths -- that B major, and the challenges posed by its five sharps, is "the Ethel Merman key."
At the back in the auditorium, members of the tech crew were working out cues.
"It’s great to see the show start from the beginning to the end result," said sound crew member and senior Kellie Schiller.
"Nobody knows how difficult sound really is," added BUHS senior and sound crew member Truuske Bailey deBruijn, who said she enjoys "the satisfaction of getting it right. ... It’s just a fun thing to do."
For all the intensity of Tuesday’s dress rehearsal, fun is still in ample supply. No two people better reinforce that point than Sarah Gordon-Macey and Hazel Kinnersley, Green Street School students ages 10 and 9, respectively, who are among a handful of younger performers cast as Rose’s young children or as newsboys to help bring "Gypsy’s" teeming world to life.
"It is really, really cool," said Hazel of the chance to work side by side with teenage mentors.
Her pal Sarah made the best pitch of the day to urge people to get up off their couches, leave their houses and go see "Gypsy." "If you choose not to, it’s your own fault," she said.
Admission is $6 for all seats at Thursday’s show, $10 for all seats at Friday’s and Saturday’s shows. Senior citizens’ tickets are $6 for all performances. Tickets will be available in the front office of the high school on weekdays from 8 a.m. and 3 p.m., or at the door. More information is available from the BUHS Ticket Desk at 802-451-3407.
The BUHS production features Annie Caltrider (Rose), Cody Gauthier (Herbie), Aurora Phillips (Louise), Corinne Epstein (June) and newcomers Hazel Kinnersley (Baby June) and Sarah Gordon-Macey as Baby Louise. Additional players include Amanda Rink, Zoe Perra, Victoria Jaenson, Molly Rice, Peter Green, Ian Epstein, Matt Carroll, Clark Hamm, Abby Sherlock, Kelsey Windish, Julia Waldron, Vanessa Brown, Kyra Johnston, Alexandra Brodeur, Kiana Lewis, Kristina Meima, Lorianne Wolff, Jack Alberico, Rhys Glennon, Liam McNeil, Jordan Roach, Mycroft Stone and Malcolm Toleno.
The orchestra is comprised of BUHS students and area musicians: Gwendolyn Harris (flute/piccolo), Ursula Casey, Rowan Hawthorne, Tom Nasiatka and Ethan Manning (clarinet), Ben Janis and Nasiatka (alto saxophone), Manning (tenor saxophone), Claire Thomas (baritone saxophone), Benson May, John Sawyer-Shaw and Ben Gartenstein (trumpet), Fleur Barnes (horn), Spencer Olson, Tyson Pond and Bob Thies (trombone), Sally Fletcher (bass), Robert Hancock and Peggy James (violin), Michelle Liechti (cello), Sam Gartenstein (piano), Jacob Gartenstein (drums) and Gideon May (percussion).
The production staff
In addition to Kramsky (stage director), Rice (music co-director), and Davis (producer), "Gypsy’s" production staff includes Anthony Speranza (music co-director), Mary Linney (costumer), Melanie Zinn (choreographer) and Seth Richardson (sound). Kate Maisner is stage manager.