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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Gypsy: Just another song and dance?

Published: November 21, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

Arielle Kaplan ‘10 as Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee.<br /><br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

Arielle Kaplan ‘10 as Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee.

PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

There were two stars in the Tympanium Euphorium production of Gypsy, and boy, were both needed. Mind you, this is a very strange play, chronicling a mother’s desire for her daughter June (and later, her daughter Louise) to become the next big thing in vaudeville. Of course, June leaves and Louise’s talents do not suffice, and she ends up working, rather successfully, at burlesque houses.

Littering this generally meandering, schmaltzy plot are half-conceived characters and plotlines, all designed to simply show that Mama Rose, played incredibly by Jennifer Faber ’09, is abandoned at every turn but cannot stop her dreams deferred. But this plot is far from intricate, and the songs are contrived at best.

While the play itself is confusingly mediocre in its own right (how did this do well on Broadway?), the production of the play itself was no help whatsoever. From still-wet paint on the scenery to the seeming lack of physical instruction for most of the actors to the off-time, sometimes off-key orchestra, it seemed impossible for this play to succeed. So one can only be left wondering—how was this atrocity-waiting-to-happen worth seeing?

Two people: Faber, and Arielle Kaplan ’10, who plays a sensational Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee. The two actresses create a realness for their characters that leaves you wanting to know these girls. It is immensely satisfying to watch the two characters convincingly transform. Rose goes from crazy mother with dreams for her children to manic manager, never knowing when there is nothing more worth fighting for. Louise grows from the seemingly unwanted extra child to reluctant, untalented star, to the sexually alluring burlesque star Gypsy.

The best of the play, indeed, is the only time the two characters have a large, meaningful interaction in the whole play, at the finale. Kaplan and Faber play off each others’ emotions magnificently, drawing you in and making you truly care about shy little Louise’s well being, even if it means that her fame can only be infamous. You even begin to feel for Rose, who starts to lose her grip on the world after her fiancé Herbie (played with the emotional range of a billy goat by Jordan Brown ’12) and Louise decide they are better off without her.

Jordan Brown ‘12 as Herbie and Jennifer Faber ‘09 as Rose.<br /><br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

Jordan Brown ‘12 as Herbie and Jennifer Faber ‘09 as Rose.

PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

Mark Eder ‘12 as Tulsa.<br /><br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

Mark Eder ‘12 as Little Rock.

PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot

This is no small feat, mind you, as Faber’s Rose is intolerable, absolutely incapable of true caring for others, always trying to make up for what she could not do as a child herself. So her and Louise’s reconciliation does end up rather contrived, but Kaplan manages to remind the audience that Gypsy is still a little girl at heart, incapable of anything but love for her mother. Faber complements that with just the right amount of love and the still prevalent desire to “make it,” even if only in show business.

The two even succeed in song, as while there was rampant microphone trouble, the two were possibly the only players whose ability to project was noticed. Their voices were quite nice, and full of emotion: Rose’s always overblown, and Louise’s melancholy and, later, alluring as she realizes that burlesque isn’t the worst thing in the world.

Rose and Gypsy were meant to be misunderstood characters, surrounded by faceless, unimportant “extras” wherever they go. And while they all drop away, leaving for greener pastures, we ultimately see the weakness of both characters and how in the end they truly need the other. And Faber and Kaplan, well, they make you believe it.

Amanda Hoffman ‘11 and Shira Straus '11 as Gypsy backup dancers.<br /><br /><i>PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot</i>

Amanda Hoffman ‘11 and Shira Straus '11 as Hollywood Blondes - Gypsy backup dancers.

PHOTO BY Max Shay/The Hoot