Review: Gypsy

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Not only is Gypsy the only full Sondheim musical to take place in DST in the last three years, but this production also had the hard task of re-establishing the foundations of TCMS following their tumultuous return to theatre with their 2022 production of Legally Blonde. However, this year the TCMS musical is a terrific success, a wonderful evening of fun all round, and a show definitely worth seeing in Durham this week.

Gypsy sees Rose, a driven and outspoken mother attempt to reach the famed heights of Broadway through showcasing her kids as ‘the next big thing.’ The set was a series of slick red flats that cleverly enabled ever-changing signs to be put up to help the audience navigate the travelling theatrical endeavours of Rose and her daughters. Although some set pieces perhaps needed greater attention to detail, the difficult demands for both scene changes and costumes were well translated into the college musical format.

Each individual onstage had their moments to shine, whilst altogether still creating a cohesive chorus, a challenge not often met with success elsewhere in DST

I was initially tentative about a college company attempting a Sondheim production, which are generally avoided due to the complexities of the score. However, immediate credit must go to Musical Director Carolyn Leung, who encapsulates Sondheim’s sound-world effortlessly with a full-bodied band that was near perfect throughout. Additionally, it is not easy to sing Sondheim, yet note-perfect Lara Mulgrew, playing the title character Rose, should be commended for her effortless command of Sondheim’s music. Mulgrew holds the entire show together with her impeccable performance and makes it look easy. She is that good. Her hard work with Vocal Musical Director is evident and sets the high standard of vocal performance from the rest of the cast too. ’s vocals as Herbie were also unfaultable, and there is a strong believable chemistry between himself and Mulgrew onstage as their tragic relationship unfolds before us.

With the small cast of 14 that pulls off this daring show, Director makes tremendous multi-rolling decisions within the ensemble. Each individual onstage had their moments to shine, whilst altogether still creating a cohesive chorus, a challenge not often met with success elsewhere in DST. As a result, I feel the standout songs have to include ‘Mr. Goldstone’ and ‘Dainty June and Her Farmboys’, because these chorus numbers balanced difficult musicality with hilarious choreography choices by Clementina Vong. I would have liked to have seen the same attention to detail in some of the solo and small group numbers, particularly those in the second half of the show, which in comparison felt less energised than the first act. However, Cawood’s capability of highlighting all the comedic potential of the show is a testament to not only his directional style but also his ability to consciously keep the show in the sweet spot of fun, upbeat college theatre. All ensemble members gave ‘terrific’ face throughout the whole show which truly sold these comedic choices, and the fake cow, in particular, had me cackling for over two minutes, much to my neighbour’s embarrassment.

as Production Manager and as producer should be celebrated for their combined efforts in transforming Trevs Dining Hall into 1920s New York

shone particularly, having the most developed narrative arc through clear and detailed acting choices that gave her the ability to navigate Louise’s journey from silenced sibling to sassy stripper with full conviction. Morley has such natural poise and grace onstage, to the extent that you cannot help but give her your full undivided attention, regardless of whatever literal cows are competing for the spotlight! There were times, however, when lines were lost from all performers, perhaps due to first-night sound issues, but more frequently, it seemed, through a loss of diction. However, that said, the ensemble standouts included Emilia Lewis, whose comic timing as Baby June and Mrs Cratchitt was exceptional, and who held such a bold and confident control over the stage as the bodacious stripper Tessie Tura.

as Production Manager and as producer should be celebrated for their combined efforts in transforming Trevs Dining Hall into 1920s New York. A highlight of the show for me was the use of the spotlight on before the ‘Gypsy Strip’ number which helped to emphasise the isolation felt by Louise at that moment. This contrasted excellently against the bright colours that concluded this number, accompanied by Morley’s dazzling green dress and Louise’s new-found confidence. Songs that mark the passing of time are notoriously hard to perform, and the determination of the CPT to go above and beyond in this number (for example in the multiple costume changes, numerous light changes, and additional chorus dancing) was a true testament to the hard work that has gone into adapting this show to best fit the facilities of the TCMS stage.

Overall, TCMS’s production of Gypsy is a feel-good musical that either has you laughing or in dumbstruck awe for a whole evening – what’s not to love?

Image credit: Trevelyan College Musical Society

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