Chicago Theatre Review
Everything's Coming up Roses at Drury Lane Oakbrook
By Lazlo Collins
So, you know the story, pushy mother, eventually repelling anyone in her way to make her kid a star. The quiet child stays on with mom to eventually reveal her true talents. From the familiar overture to the smashing emotional ending soliloquy, this “Gypsy” at the Drury Lane Theater in Oak Brook Terrace, needs no gimmick.
I have seen many productions of “Gypsy” throughout the years. This production is one that I will not soon forget for many reasons. The late Mr. Laurents would have been proud.
Moving this mammoth of a show through its paces is the iconic character of Mamma Rose. The character of Rose is part power broker, part chow main enthusiast and part steam engine, and Klea Blackhurst is all of these things and more. The role of “Rose” takes on immediate comparisons to some of the actresses who have played her through the years; Merman, LuPone, Midler, and Daly are the actresses who have taken the part to legendary heights. Well, move over cuz Ms. Blackhurst is here! Her part Bette Midler, part Ethel Merman performance was clear and pertinent. It never felt as if she was impersonating either Ms. Midler or Ms. Merman, but rather channeling them, oh so divinely. Not only is her singing like breathing, but her smart interpretations are distinct.
There were moments in her performance that were absolutely perfect. She took over, without taking O-V-E-R. I think the audience was eagerly waiting for the finale of “Rose’s Turn”. You could feel the audience with Ms. Blackhurst’s every move and belting note. As corny as it sounds, there was electricity in the air.
Keeping up with Ms. Blackhurst would be no easy feat; but Andrea Prestinario as “Louise” is definitely up for the challenge. I liked that Ms. Pestinario never folded from her point of view. She stayed true to her vision of “Louise” and made her believable and genuine. She has a pleasing voice with some great scenes to showcase her acting chops as well. Although I thought “Little Lamb” was sort of comic and not so reflective.
In the role of “Herbie” is David Kortemeier. If “Rose” is the engine of the show, then “Herbie” is just one of the cars holding on for dear life. Mr. Kortemeier does a perfect job of keeping up with the ups and downs of life with the Mamma. I have always had a problem with this role in imaging ANYONE that would stay with Rose without, what appears to be; sex, money and stability. But that is what makes this show biz relationship so interesting. And after every time I see “Gypsy” I still think she will marry him, and he will stay. Mr, Kortemeier’s portrayal was sweet and I wanted him to stand up to her and stay where ever they went- together.
As the three wise strippers near the end of the show, Susan Lubeck (Tessie Tura,) Cheryl Avery (Mazepa), and Frances Asher (Electra) are very funny in their show stopping performance of “You Gotta Get a Gimmick”. It gives the show its perfect seventh inning stretch.
Rounding out this wildly satisfying show is the ever appealing Matthew Crowle as “Tulsa”, and Andrea Collier as “June”. They both sang and danced perfectly around the story with style.
A quick shout out to Jarrod Zimmerman, who got the comedy off to a fresh and fun start as “Uncle Jocko and the perennial Andrew Lupp providing energy throughout his revolving door of walk-ons.
At the helm, of this production of “Gyspy” with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim; William Osetek has beautiful crafted each scene. I thought the direction was excellent and moved well with the almost stark and simple, yet complex set (Martin Andrew). Mr. Osetek hits it big with his interpretation of Mamma Rose and her caravan of misfits.
The music direction (Roberta Duchak and Ben Johnson) had a distinctively clipped pace, which made the numbers lively; although you can tell it put some of the actors through their paces, just to keep up. I think the speed added the freshness of the show, particularly the group numbers. No dirges here, all your favorite/familiar songs “Let Me Entertain You”, “Wherever We Go, and “Some People”, was quick and bright.
If you have never seen “Gypsy” or you have seen “Gypsy” in the past that made you roll your eyes or put you to sleep; I think this production at the Drury Lane Theater in Oak Brook Terrace will delight you. I had a great time and in the end made me smile wildly like I was seeing the show for the very first time.
“Gypsy” plays through 1 April 2012. For tickets call 630-530-0111 or visit www.durylaneoakbrook.com