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STAGE REVIEWS : ‘Gypsy’ Makes the Grade During a Rare Visit to College

TIMES STAFF WRITER

“Gypsy” isn’t just one of the best-known Broadway musicals, it’s one of the most satisfying--an exuberant mix of song, dance, mother love and memoirs that is as affecting as it is entertaining.

And as timeless. Based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, “Gypsy” may take place in the anything-for-attention worlds of vaudeville and burlesque, but it could just as well be set in the let’s-do-lunch worlds of TV and film.

Mama Rose is pushing for daughter June (Havoc) to be a star. When June ultimately bolts the show, her older sister Louise--who becomes known as Gypsy Rose Lee--is thrust into the spotlight.

“Gypsy” isn’t often performed at colleges, as it demands a mature performer in the role of Mama Rose, perhaps the most famous stage mother to ever grace (if that’s the right word) a stage. So the current production at Golden West College is a rarity and, it turns out, a real treat.

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As the irrepressible Rose, Marcie Ross belts out the Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim tunes with complete conviction and an appropriately manic edge to her voice. Stardom, after all, has eclipsed her, so she is determined that her daughter will have it. But, as she ultimately lets us know in “Rose’s Turn,” she could have been better than either of her girls.

This production, directed by John Ferzacca, gives off a real sense of energy, especially from 11-year-old Peri Baker, who as Baby June sings “Let Me Entertain You,” and from Lili Lewis as June in her later years.

Angela Elizabeth Sanders is just fine in the tricky role of Louise, though we could use a little more oomph once she’s become the queen of burlesque. We could also use a little more feeling in the scenes between Rose and her longtime, put-upon suitor Herbie (Howard Mango), especially when they first meet; when they sing “Small World,” we just don’t quite believe them.

We also could use a little less of the too-cute stuff in the opening scene involving all those kids and stage mothers at an audition. (Then again, those auditions probably were pretty cloying).

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The play’s best moments include Ross’ rendition of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and an effectively strobe-lit musical sequence marking the passage of time by starting out with child actors and concluding with a stage full of teen-agers. With few exceptions, the scenes of this production seem to fly by as quickly as those years.

‘GYPSY’

A Golden West College Mainstage Theater production of the musical suggested by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. Book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Directed by John Ferzacca. With Marcie Ross, Howard Mango, Angela Elizabeth Sanders, Lili Lewis, Peri Baker and Katherine Giles. Musical direction by David F. Anthony. Choreography by Marie de la Palme. Plays Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. Through May 25 at 15744 Golden West St., Huntington Beach. Tickets: $8 to $12. Information: (714) 895-8378.


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