Monday, September 17, 2012

Here She is Delaware, and You Don't Want to Miss Her!

The Wilmington Drama League (WDL) opens its 79th season with the quintessential Broadway musical, Gypsy. Tommy Fisher-Klein does a capital job directing this classic show with a book by Arthur Lurents, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Mr. Fisher-Klein’s production uses a minimalist set by John Fisher-Klein, so the audience focuses on the characters and the true story of a stage mother in the early 1900’s who’s determined to make her two daughters into stars.

Tina Sheing plays the obsessive stage mother, Rose, who will stop at nothing to make her daughters’ dreams come true, or really Rose’s dream of startdom. Ms. Sheing captures the many facets of the character – loving, overbearing, selfish, ruthless, controlling, resourceful, determined and loud!  She is a woman who won’t take no for an answer. Ms. Sheing’s intensity is like walking over a partially frozen pond, you know when she will crack and explode into a tirade when another character attempts to stop her mission. Sheing’s superb voice handles the show’s iconic songs, such as Some People and Rose’s Turn, with great verve.

Among the many standout performances, Ms. Sheing shares the stage with Pat Sutton as Rose’s “spineless” beau and her daughters’ manager, Herbie, and Ashley Wright as Rose’s shy daughter, Louise, who plays second to her star stealing sister, but later becomes the world’s most famous burlesque performer, Gypsy Rose Lee. Both Mr. Sutton and Ms. Wright give transformational performances. Initially both characters are stunted by Rose’s domineering personality, but by the end, both find their own voices and gain control of their own lives. In addition to Mr. Sutton and Ms. Wright’s excellent performances, Lizzy Sprague as the charismatic June, Rose’s beautiful and talented daughter; Dan Sanchez as one of June’s backup dancers, Tulsa, Nicole Hemphill as the younger version of June (Baby June); and Talia Speak as the younger version of Louise (Baby Louise) give fine performances.

However, the audience has to wait until the second act before three of the shows most comical characters are introduced, Tessie Tura (played by Jodi Persing), Mazeppa (played by Meaghan Gonzalez), and Electra (played by Maureen Cotellese). The three professional burlesque performers introduce Louise to the art of stripping with the humorous musical number You Gotta Get a Gimmick. Sure anyone can be a stripper, but to be a star you have to set yourself apart from the other burlesque performers. All three women give stellar performances and they know exactly how to bump and grind it!

After listening to so many beloved show tunes, I walked out of the theater joyfully humming some of my favorite songs from the show, Everything’s Coming up Roses and Together, Wherever We Go. I’m hoping to make it back to WDL to see it one more time!

Gypsy closes September 23. To order tickets, call 302.764.1172 or visit

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