City Theater Company’s landmark 2013-2014 season continues with the epic Gypsy. Hailed by critics as the great American musical—with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and book by Arthur Laurents—the show is based on the memoirs of legendary stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. The classically structured play focuses on the ultimate stage mom, Mama Rose, and her obsessive drive to make her two daughters into stars at any cost.
CTC’s revamp of the beloved tale is anything but traditional. The 10-person cast is comprised of six actors playing June and Louise throughout; three actors playing multiple roles; and CTC grand dame Karen Murdock as Mama Rose. Producing Artistic Director Michael Gray, who directs the piece, wanted to create an unsettling atmosphere that belied the backdrop of great Broadway show tunes (All I Need Is The Girl, Wherever We Go, Rose’s Turn) that Gypsy is famous for presenting. “At its heart, this story is very upsetting. It’s about a woman so obsessed with fame that she manipulates everyone around her to achieve some measure of it. She begins by dragging her children all over the country in pursuit of vaudeville success and ends by pushing her young daughter into becoming a stripper. That’s pretty dark! Mama Rose takes no prisoners. And ultimately the only way she achieves lasting fame is a sugar-coated version of her life—the world of the play itself. In our version, time is fluid. The characters float in and out at different ages, roles, and seminal moments, reflecting Rose’s version of events.”
Cabaret and bench seating bring the audience in on the action, with the play being performed in the round at the intimate Black Box at OperaDelaware Studios. Mama Rose’s mania covers every corner of the room. Murdock has been biding her time to perform this bucket list role. “I’ve turned down previous offers to play Rose because I’ve been saving it for CTC, with the understanding that we would treat it with the kind of grit and power it deserves. We are involving the audience in the struggles of these odd and marvelous people in ways that they won’t expect and might not be prepared for. That’s what I love about the way CTC interprets plays. The audience takes the same journey that the characters do. They will be as exposed and exploited as Mama Rose feels she is, as her daughters feels they are, as everyone who comes into contact with this woman ends up feeling. There is no escape. That’s great live theater.”
Gypsy stars Karen Murdock (A Little Night Music, Company), supported by Kerry Kristine McElrone (Cabaret, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson), Dylan Geringer (Xanadu, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson) and Paul McElwee (Bat Boy, On The Air) round out the main cast. Newcomers Zachary Chiero and Emma D. Orr make their CTC debut, along with young actors Maura McCarney, Jessica Nichter, Kieran McCarney, and Nicole Hemphill. The Gypsy orchestra is conducted by Joe Trainor and features Josh Dowiak, Chris Tolomeo, Michele Ferdinand, Bob Baronio, Jessica Eves, Barbara Benedett, and Steve Smith. Choreography by Dawn Morningstar. Set and lighting design by Vicki Neal and Richard Kendrick. Costume design by Kerry Kristine McElrone and Lauren Peters.
TICKET DETAILS: General admission $25. Limited VIP seating $40 and includes complimentary drinks, stage-side table, and cast-signed program. Production runs Friday, December 6 through Saturday, December 21, 2013. All shows 8:00pm except one 2:00pm matinee Sunday, December 15. All shows at The Black Box at Opera Delaware Studios, 4 South Poplar Street, Wilmington, DE 19801.