"Kim Zimmer (Rose) and Robert Newman (Herbie) have a complex relationship in CLO's 'Gypsy.'"
Courtesy of CLO
Amanda Rose, Susan Cella, Amma Osei and Ruth Pferdehirt in Pittsburgh CLO's Gypsy.
Courtesy of CLO
Cast of Pittsburgh CLO's Gypsy.
By Maria Sciullo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Who needs gimmicks when you have “Gypsy”?
Pittsburgh CLO opened its 10-day run of the venerable musical last night at the Benedum Center, a show that would appear to be both easy and hard to get right.
With book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, “Gypsy” and its numbers are so well-known and respected, it’s practically bulletproof. There’s something for everyone: drama, comedy, heartbreak, even a dancing cow.
But “Gypsy” can’t sell its story without a convincing Mama Rose, and here, Kim Zimmer fits the bill. A veteran of both theater and the long-running soap, “Guiding Light,” Ms. Zimmer is the portrait of single-minded determination. (She's like "a pioneer woman without a frontier.”)
Ms. Zimmer, who considers herself an alto, said during rehearsals that because she didn’t have formal voice training earlier in her career, “you have to learn to do it another way.” Her voice was more than fine on opening night, and she got the biggest cheers for “Rose’s Turn."
In Rose’s world, people leave. Her mother walked out when she was a child and she had three divorces. The story opens in Seattle, around the time of the Great Depression, and it doesn’t matter if people disappoint Rose; by gosh, she’s going to make it on her own.
Well, she’s going to make it for her daughter, June. June, the one who can sing and dance and is destined for the bright lights of Broadway. There’s another child, Louise, but as Rose often reminds her, June is the star of their hilariously bad act.
As they and a ragtag group of chorus boys try to make it onto Vaudeville’s Orpheum circuit, a salesman enters their lives. Herbie, played by Robert Newman with a bit of gravel in his voice, provides the ballast to Rose’s hot-air balloon of wild dreams.
Herbie wants a family, Rose likes that he likes the idea (“Small World”). They hit it off. But Herbie is going to have to accept Rose’s drive for success always comes first.
No surprise there’s a natural chemistry between the two leads: Ms. Zimmer and Mr. Newman played long-time lovers on “Guiding Light.” Amanda Rose — last seen as Betty in Pittsburgh CLO’s “Sunset Boulevard” — is a terrific adult Louise.
To be sure, “Gypsy” has mature themes. Loosely based on the life of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, it takes a decidedly darker turn in Act 2. Any doubts that Rose is merely a pushy stage mother are erased by the final curtain.
But it’s that balance of light and dark that make the show such a well-rounded creation. Director Charles Repole gives those in the smaller, breakout numbers a chance to shine. Zach Trimmer brings a balletic grace to Tulsa’s “All I Need Is The Girl,” and the “You Gotta Have a Gimmick” trio of Susan Cella (Tessie Tura), Amma Osei (Mazeppa) and Ruth Pferdehirt (Electra) literally provides comic oomph.
Here’s a sign of how well things went Friday: the multitude of kids on stage were adorable and talented, as one would hope. But during a scene where Amanda Rose is holding her birthday present and singing (“Little Lamb”), the live, snowy white lamb raised its head to nuzzle her chin.
There was an appreciable “aah” from the audience. Let’s see if that lamb can hit its mark through the rest of the run.
Maria Sciullo: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1478 or @MariaSciulloPG.
To report inappropriate comments, abuse and/or repeat offenders, please send an email to
email@example.com and include a link to the article and a copy of the comment. Your report will be reviewed in a timely manner.