Gypsyby Arthur Laurents, Julie Styne & Stephen Sondheim; dir John Ruscoe
Criterion Theatre, Earlsdon, Coventry
8 – 15 December 2012
4 stars

I had never seen this show either on stage or as a film, so I came to it completely fresh. It won’t go down as my favourite musical, but it certainly provided an excellent night out at the Criterion.

The story, adapted from the autobiography of Gypsy Rose Lee, is here presented with great style, tremendous confidence and a real pizazz. There is scarcely a weak performance amongst a large cast, and the overall quality is up there with the recent tradition of Criterion year-end musicals. In fact, I sat there thinking much of the time that this production under John Ruscoe’s direction would not look out of place on the professional stage.

The classic role of the mother, Rose, is taken by the talented Vicki Hollings, and she brings great energy and a powerful singing voice to the character. For the most part she dominates the stage, as she should, but she is well-matched by Matt Sweatman as her friend and agent, Herbie, the two making a convincing on stage partnership.

The part of Louise – later to become Gypsy Rose – is played by Lucy Hayton. In her transformation from trouser role vaudeville performer to burlesque stripper she is a sensation.

Elsewhere, there are fine portrayals of Gypsy’s fellow strippers by Chris Evans, Anne-Marie Greene and (at the performance I attended) Jodie Gibson, filling in at short notice for the indisposed Cathryn Bowler, and who had appeared earlier as Louise’s sister, the favoured June. And even the kids were suitably precocious and oozing confidence, especially Cherry-Rose Cleverley as Baby June.

In a departure from recent practices, the band was located at the rear of the stage and above Pete Bagley’s adaptable set, and, for the most part, played well under Bill Bosworth’s direction, only occasionally drowning out the vocals. Mention, too, should also be made of the choreography by Deb Relton-Elves and Jayne Meggitt which was well-rehearsed.

In summary, then, a highly entertaining evening which maintained the Criterion’s high standard.

Hari Kitson


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