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Production of 'Gypsy' is about being noticed

June 24, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

"Curtain up! Light the lights!"

That's what will happen beginning Saturday, June 26, at Washington County Playhouse.

Everything's coming up "Gypsy," the musical story based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee.

The play, which premiered on Broadway in 1959, tells the tale of Mama Rose, the quintessential stage mother, her daughters and their life on the road in the fading world of vaudeville at the end of the 1920s.

Cecelia Parker plays Rose, a character originated by Ethel Merman, revived on Broadway by Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly and, most recently, Bernadette Peters.

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Parker is not a newcomer to the part. The playhouse production is her fifth shot at the domineering Rose, who is determined to make her daughter a star.

"It's a dream role," Parker said.

Despite having several Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim songs to sing, Parker, 61, describes her part as an acting role more than a singing role. Over the years, her Rose has gone from a just-singing-Ethel-Merman-type portrayal to a woman who's a little more appealing, a little sexier, Parker said.

Parker and the rest of the 25 to 30 cast members are directed by Shawn Martin, who's been involved in Washington County Playhouse productions "fairly regularly" since 1995.

He called "Gypsy" one of his favorite shows and said he has long wanted the opportunity to stage it.

"The book (by Arthur Laurents) is probably one of the best in musical theater," Martin said.

"The characters are rich. It's a compelling story," he added. "Everyone can sort of identify with the struggle to be noticed."

Martin acted in a 1991 Chambersburg Community Theatre production of the show - a "Gypsy" that also had Parker in the Rose role.

He and his fiance, Susan Strider, saw the recent Broadway revival with Peters three times. In the playhouse production, Strider portrays Dainty June, Rose's adorable younger daughter who grows too old to be Baby June any longer. Her character wants to be a star. Her mother wants her to be a star. But the world is changing.

Dainty June leaves when she sees an opportunity, and Rose turns the spotlight on Louise.

The spotlight, however, shines on the burlesque stage, and the shy Louise becomes Gypsy - a stripteaser and a star.

Strider has been in playhouse productions for 10 years. Like all the others involved on stage and behind, the demanding rehearsal and performance schedule comes on top of a day job and real life. Strider teaches fifth grade at Western Heights Elementary School in Hagerstown. Martin is a training manager for an employment agency, and Parker works in the Chambersburg office of U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa.

Strider compared working at Washington County Playhouse to being part of a family.

But in this family, there is no Mama Rose pushing children on stage.

Strider performs because she loves it.




If you go


"Gypsy"

6 p.m. dinner and 7:30 p.m. show Saturday, June 26, and Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 28.

1 p.m. dinner and 2:30 p.m. show Sundays, July 11 and 18 and Aug. 8 and 22.

Washington County Playhouse

44 N. Potomac St.

Hagerstown

Tickets cost $28 for adults. Discounts are available for seniors, students and children.

For information, call 301-739-7469.

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