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YOU GOTTA HAVE A GIMMICK

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Viewing a theater show with a full belly and nursing a drink starts one off with a sense of satisfaction. Knowing that dessert will arrive at intermission is something else to look forward to. Starlight Theater has its performances and meal service in balance, flowing from one to the other smoothly and without rushing.

The current production of Gypsy is also respectable, and Kristen Owen, who plays the lead role of Rose, the irrepressible backstage mother, has a voice that's beautiful to hear. The rest of the cast is also strong in their singing and dancing, which is remarkable given the dozen or so kids in the mix.

But overall, the production doesn't have the glitz factor – especially considering the ticket price – to rekindle the glory of the 1959 Broadway musical that starred Ethel Merman. (Written by Arthur Laurents, with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Jule Styne, the show is based on the memoirs of the real Gypsy Rose Lee, who did become the star that mother Rose wanted her to be – albeit on the burlesque circuit.)

The opening scene in particular is too flat considering the evening's buildup. And when we are introduced to Rose, she is too young, pretty and refined in appearance to grab us as a coarsened, streetwise single woman with misaligned dreams. Her tough, New accent helps, but her exterior keeps us unconvinced. Still, Owen's singing and acting manage to carry the show.

Hands down, the winning scene comes in the second act, when three burlesque dancers in outrageous costumes use a bump-and-grind song and dance to school Gypsy Rose Lee on the rules of stripping. "You gotta have a gimmick," they sing, "if you wanna have a chance!"

To fill the seats, the creative staff should make sure that musical gems like Gypsy have dazzling production values. Either that, or go for some fresh fare that's more likely to wow a contemporary audience.

Gypsy
Through March 5
Starlight Theater


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