'Gypsy' dances across PFAA stage
PRESCOTT - A wealth of talented actors and experienced directors makes the Prescott Fine Arts Association's new musical production, "Gypsy," fun, entertaining and engrossing. The music, singing and acting are top-notch.
The play opened Thursday night and runs through March 21.
"We spent nine-and-a-half weeks rehearsing for this," director Bruce Lanning said. Lanning operated a theater in Cleveland and currently teaches drama at Yavapai College. "There are 17 scenes and lots of costume changes."
The play, which first opened on Broadway in 1959, is based on the memoirs of burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee and her domineering mother, Rose. The play opens in the late 1920s with Rose producing a vaudeville act comprised of a small brood of underage children including her daughters, June and Louise (later known as Gypsy Rose Lee).
"'Gypsy is an extremely challenging musical for the roles," music director Kate St. Clair said. "There is some very, very tough singing for Rose (played by Kate Howell)."
Before the curtain goes up, St. Clair warms up the 29-member cast with breathing and singing exercises, and cheek slaps and neck rolls. St. Clair performed in European operas and leading roles on stages from New York to California before joining PFAA.
Audience members may recognize many of the songs written for the play and performed by the PFAA performers: "Let Me Entertain You," "You'll Never Get Away From Me," "Everything's Coming Up Roses," and "Rose's Turn."
Although many people are familiar with Gypsy Rose Lee's colorful career, few know the rocky road and family hardship she endured on her way to fame and fortune, or that a chance of fate propelled her to burlesque, which she had never considered doing. The play follows her story from her days as a little girl playing vaudeville acts, to the woman who entertainment historians credit with bringing respectability to burlesque.
In a throwback to vaudeville days, two PFAA "poster girls," Willa Cowan and Morgan Peterson, carry placards across stage introducing each scene.
Carol Critten, a former Rockette dancer who also danced with Gene Kelly, choreographed the two-hour play.
The play ends with the full cast performing, "Let Me Entertain You."
"This is a real fun play," Critten said.
Evening performances start at 7:30 p.m. March 12, 13, 18-20, and 25-27. Matinee performances start at 2 p.m. March 14 and 21. Tickets for evening shows cost $19 and $15 for matinees.
Tickets are available at the door or in advance at the theater box office from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays, 208 N. Marina St., or by calling 445-3286. For more information about the PFAA, visit www.pfaa.net.