ATI’s ‘Gyspy’ shines at the Studio Theater

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Judy Fitzgerald as Rose, mother of Gypsy Rose Lee

“Gypsy” is a musical based on the 1957 memoirs of famous burlesque entertainer Gypsy Rose Lee. A majority of the show follows the struggles of Gypsy’s mother, Rose, as she attempts to make her two daughters, Louise (who would later be known as Gypsy) and June, famous Vaudeville stars. Throughout the performance, the audience is made more and more aware of the troubling drive behind Rose’s desire to see her children succeed, something that may be based far more in selfishness than love.

Judy Fitzgerald, one of the co-founders of Actors Theatre of Indiana, plays Rose wonderfully. Despite having met and talked to her on several occasions, I did not even recognize her until nearly halfway through the performance. Her transformation into the character of Rose is complete.

While Alexandra Young portrayed June well, the real meat and potatoes of the story lies within the conflicts between Rose and Louise, played by the amazing Gracia Gillund. As the story progresses, Gillund did a wonderful job of unfurling Louise’s character, transforming her from the kind but shy girl taking second place to her sister to the defiant and confident woman that would become Gypsy Rose Lee.

After the performance, Don Farrell, co-founder of ATI, introduced Michael Rafter, an Emmy award winning music director known for his work in the television adaptation of “Gypsy” as well as a number of Broadway shows. This was the first of this season’s Talk Back series in which industry professionals give talks after certain performances.

Rafter had countless stories about those he had worked with in the past such as Jule Styne, the original songwriter for “Gypsy,” as well Bette Midler and a number of other industry veterans. Story after story was filled with unique personalities colliding, bizarre coincidences and moments of extreme passion. It was a treat to see Rafter speak, especially after such a great performance of a show he had worked on so heavily in the past.

The entire evening was one that has stuck with me for days and days afterwards. The weight and emotion carried in the performance has been coming back into my mind and ignited an interest in Gypsy Rose Lee’s memoirs. If you have even the mildest interest in theatre, do yourself a favor and see this show before it is gone.

Actor’s Theatre of Indiana’s “Gypsy” runs through September 30 at the Center for the Performing Arts’ Studio Theatre in Carmel. For more information as well as tickets and performance times, please visit actorstheatreofindiana.org.

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