I was finally able to catch GYPSY at the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts on Thursday night. This ambitious project, tackled by the dynamic duo of Ed Cohen and Dee Anne Bryll features Sherry McCamley as “Mama Rose” and CCM students Taylor Alexander as “June” and Brianna Barnes as “Louise.” Another CCMer, Nick Pellacio, plays Tulsa – a chorus boy in the troupe that Mama Rose has created to stand behind her baby June whom she intends to make into a star. This doesn’t work pan out the way Mama intended. The fabulous score features some of Broadway’s classics, including “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Let Me Entertain You.”
David Lyman from the Cincinnati Enquirer said, “McCamley had a tough decision. Be tough and brash, like Ethel Merman, the first Mama Rose, and risk being viewed as abusive or portray Mama Rose as a more palatable character. McCamley takes the latter route. It does make Rose more likable.”
The League of Cincinnati Theatres, of which I’m a panel chair and on the Board of Directors, said this about Sherry: “The panelists commended local veteran actress Sherry McCamley. “I particularly liked that she made this iconic role a human being. I was rooting for her character the entire time and felt she earned her song in Rose’s Turn.” McCamley “plays the tour de force role with great commitment and some knockout vocals!” Finally, “Mama Rose is a star vehicle with one of the best female roles in Broadway musicals and Sherry McCamley is up to the task both as a brash actor and singer. The songs “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and the climax, “Rose’s Turn” are key to the show and Sherry delivered on both.'”
The League also said this about Brianna Barnes: “Brianna Barnes (Louise) captured my attention from the moment she entered the stage. She managed to give us a range of emotion carrying us through self-consciousness humbleness, rage, pity, sorrow, and love, played with truthfulness and energy.” Another noted “the highlight of this show was Brianna Barnes as Louise who was completely authentic and charismatic throughout this show, has great poise and vocal talent, and made a stunning transformation from Louise to Gypsy Rose that never seemed forced or faked. She is truly a star.”
Rick Pender from Citybeat said, “Barnes especially conveys Louise’s evolution from awkward adolescent to confident stage performer with aplomb; her longing for Tulsa (Nick Pelaccio, another CCM product who’s a great dancer) in “All I Need Is the Girl” is palpable — and heartbreaking when he runs away with June.”
For me, I would have liked to see a little more aggression from Mama, a little more brass from all involved, and a tighter pacing all around. I loved the set, however, and admire anyone who can take on the cavernous Covedale theatre and work the stage. The regulars at this west side theatre seemed to enjoy themselves and I enjoyed the music, under the direction of Steve Goers. I’m excited to see how he tackles the Christmas version of FOREVER PLAID this coming holiday season.
Congratulations to Cincinnati Landmark Productions on another successful run and kudos on their brand new sparkling video matinee out front! Be sure to grab dinner at Price Hill Chili before you see a show there!