THE genius of director Colin Mitchell, the hard work of his production team and the talent of the cast was there for all to see when Leongatha Lyric Theatre’s new musical production, Gypsy, opened last Friday night.
A life member of Leongatha Lyric, Colin Mitchell, was determined that the local company would put its best foot forward in its 50th anniversary year even if it killed him …and them!
It very nearly did.
By the time the curtain went up, key production figures including Lyric president and costume maker Glenda Smith and set builder Peter Western had been sidelined with the flu after months of work and several cast members were battling colds.
But you’d never have known it on stage where Lyric produced one of its finest shows, starting out in style with a near flawless production on opening night.
We say “near flawless” because, while the show itself was faultless, ‘Chowsie the Dog’, played by ‘Myrtle’ Morrison managed to escape off stage and with leash trailing behind, found her own way out into the audience. It’s a good thing it didn’t happen in Bass Coast!
Highlights of the show included the performances of Elli Poletti as Madam Rose and Natasha Eastman-Nagle as Gypsy Rose Lee.
Elli handled the imposing score like a consummate professional and Natasha showed her versatility by moving with ease from junior performer to portraying one of the world’s most famous stage personalities.
Queen of the sophisticated burlesque scene in America in the 1930s and 1940s, Gypsy Rose Lee created a sensation in September 1954 when she came to Australia for 12 performances at the Sydney Palladium.
She apparently toured with the biggest wardrobe of clothes (ironically for a burlesque stripper) ever brought to this country by an overseas artist and her efforts were emulated in Lyric’s Gypsy where an incredible array of costumes was used.
Together with Brad Beach as ‘Herbie’, they superbly acted out the compelling and entertaining story of Gypsy’s rise to fame but it was a difficult journey at times and the break-up scene between Madam Rose and Herbie late in the show was particularly well done.
All around them, though, the cast was equally strong.
Bella Kent as ‘Baby June’ led the early scenes, featuring the show’s youngest performers; and Janie Gordon as ‘Dainty June’ with Will Hanley as ‘Tulsa’ picked up where they left off and the scene where the junior troupe transitions into adults was quite amazing.
The wonderful singing and dancing by the kids very nearly stole the show in the first act and similarly, the trio of older burlesque stars; Nicole Cooper as Tessie Tura, Rhonda Melhuish as Mazeppa and Kerrie Giles as Electra almost did the same in the second act with the iconic ‘You’ve got to have a gimmick’ number.
But every time the story moved on, you kept coming back to the stunning voice of Elli Poletti and if only for that, this is a production not to be missed.
But, of course there’s more, a lot more; the stage setting, the incredible array of costumes, the unrelenting action, the superb music from a highly talented orchestra under MD Carmel Slater… it’s a great show and quite incredible to think that it’s local people putting on a professional-standard production in their own town.
It’s also worth mentioning that Lyric’s new seating is wonderfully comfortable and look out for the director Colin Mitchell himself contributing a couple of choice cameos.
Gypsy continues this Thursday night, and across the weekend, closing on Saturday night the following weekend but don’t leave it until the last minute to book. See advert this week for ticket details.