I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting walking into Hayes Theatre to see Gypsy, a musical based on the memoirs of famous burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. All I know is this wasn’t it.
The performance focuses heavily on the early life of Gypsy Rose Lee, growing up in the shadow of her sister and under the controlling demands of her Mother Rose (Blazey Best). Rose was the original ‘Dance Mom’, pushing her daughters into a life of vaudeville, promising them a bright and famous future. She’s pushy, selfish and brash and for the most part I found the character incredibly unlikable.
The story is more of a slow burn than a raging fire, and by intermission the audience still hasn’t met Gypsy Rose Lee. By this stage it’s clear that Louise (Laura Bunting) will be the daughter to transform into the burlesque star but I am surprised we haven’t seen a hint of this by this point. It’s at intermission that I realise – this is a long musical.
I enjoyed the second half more than the first. A highlight was the performance montage once Louise has launched herself onto the burlesque stage and Gypsy Rose Lee. Although, for a show that is essentially about the rise of one of the most famous burlesque performers in history, there was a surprisingly small amount of actual burlesque. The snippets of performances were more talk than tits and I feel so much more could have been done with this section of the production.
Credit needs to be given to the costuming, especially the burlesque outfits, which were absolutely beautiful. In particular the show stopping green sequined number, complete with matching pasties, created by costume maker (and burlesque performer) Laura Cagnacci / Eva Devore, was stunning.
I had envisioned Gypsy would focus more on the rise of the star and her performances, rather than her younger years. Given how dominant the character of Rose was, it felt more like the story of her life than that of her daughter. I completely appreciate that it was her Mother’s pushing and constant dreaming which propelled her to the stardom she ultimately achieved, and that this was clearly the focus of the performance, but for me, it just missed the mark.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Gypsy is playing at Hayes Theatre Co until 30 June 2018. For more information and to book tickets head to https://hayestheatre.com.au/event/gypsy (reviewer attended on 22 May 2018)