Gypsy, Little Theatre Company – Palace Theatre, Southend
Gypsy is one of my ‘all-time’ favourite Musicals and so I was very excited to see this production from the Little Theatre Company. Based on a true story it takes us on a rollercoaster ride from the bottom end of vaudeville to the top of burlesque.
Starting with the young talent that represents the baby versions of the main characters we had some great performances from them all, with very tight dance routines and great vocals. Amongst the six young performers, it was Sebastian Poskitt-Richardson as Baby Tulsa who really stood out and had great energy – I do feel he will be one to watch in the future.
I did feel that Molly Hall as Baby June could perhaps have been a little sweeter and sugarier and generally over the top in her portrayal but I am confident this will grow with her future performances. Chelsea-Louise Wilkes was perfectly shy and understated as Baby Louise. All the youngsters at tonight’s show were a great credit to the society and themselves.
The adult versions, therefore, had a lot to live up to… but they did not let themselves down in any way. Eleanor Softly as June was suitably nasally and cheesy as Dainty June and her number with Alice Fillary as Louise – “If Mamma Got Married” was beautifully staged and one that I really enjoyed.
All the adult boys delivered well but it was a delight to see Chris Higginson playing Tulsa who was the right age to play the part, with great singing and acting skills but who could really dance. He stood out in the group numbers but his solo “All I need is the Girl” was charming.
Alice Fillary as Louise was just divine. I often found myself watching her when she was not the centre of the action as her acting and re-acting was just perfect. She completely understood the characterisation and her character growth throughout was spot on. I loved her singing voice but it was her acting that totally captivated me. A Stunning Performance!
Ian Benson had just the right amount of stability as Herbie, the contrast to Rose and his numbers with Stephanie Wilson were very enjoyable to watch.
I have to say – and this is a personal comment – that I wish the MD wasn’t lit through-out the show as this was so often distracting but the orchestra was excellent with a top-class brass section which is vital to the show.
My favourite number in the show has to be “Gotta have a Gimmick” and Laura Harper, Lianne Larthe and Sarah Pettican relished this number – each with their own gimmick they gave a brilliant performance and the audience loved it.
However, the “star” of this show is definitely Stephanie Wilson as Mamma Rose. Having seen Imelda Staunton play the role I wasn’t sure how anyone else could compare but Stephanie gives, gives and just gives us more and is a tour de force throughout the show. Her diction was superb as I could hear everything she said and sung and she never held back on what is essentially a physical workout. This was a masterclass in performance.
I would say the whole cast line up was exceptional and it difficult to believe this is an amateur production – however there were a few hiccups – follow spots who wandered or couldn’t stay on the principals, some painful and noisy scene changes during solos and dialogue scenes and tabs that flew out in Stephanie big number – ‘Roses Turn’ allowing us to see stagehands trying to hide behind/cover themselves with tab curtains in the wings which was disappointedly distracting.
But we must remember that the cast has been rehearsing for weeks and most technicians only get a couple of rehearsals to perfect their part in the show. These are minor issues and if they can be ironed out then this show will be as professional as any I have ever seen.
I have to congratulate the group on staging such a fantastic show, which lived up to my hopes and delivered on all levels. Congratulations to everyone involved