Well-known songs, the realistic feel of the vaudeville-burlesque era and seeing faces from the community on stage combine in the Broadway show “Gypsy,” opening at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28 at the Whidbey Playhouse.
As a child, Louise, played by Megan LeMay, performs as a backup “newsboy” dancer in her sister, June’s, vaudeville act. Quiet Louise can’t compete with her sunny, blonde sister, played by Ella Langrock, in the eyes of their overbearing mother, Mama Rose, played by Heather Good.
Mama Rose powers the show, with her dreams of stardom for Baby June and inattentiveness to Louise. Good’s singing voice is the only sweet aspect to the otherwise thorny go-getter.
Never knowing their true ages or attending school, the sisters grow up flitting from audition to audition while Mama Rose manipulates them like puppets. When she meets retired agent Herbie, played by Joel Green, she traps him under her spell as well.
Then an older June, played by Alora Caldwell, has enough of her mother and elopes with one of her backup newsboys, who are played by Mike Garon, Patrick Punch and Lance Garon. When it seems like everything is crashing down for Mama Rose, she realizes she has one path left to walk: her forgotten daughter Louise, played by Shantel Porter. Mama Rose decides to make her a star instead.
Eager to please, Louise practices her sister’s vaudeville act, until an accidental booking in a burlesque house changes her life. Despite Mama Rose’s disgust with burlesque and the dancers, played by Sheila Terry, Amy Garrett and Debbie Blasé, when the opportunity arises for Louise to take center stage as the star stripper, Mama Rose thrusts Louise into the spotlight against her will, throwing Louise into her future as the most famous burlesque dancer of all time, Gypsy Rose Lee.
“It was fun!” Good said of playing Mama Rose. “It was hard. There are not a lot of redeeming qualities to Mama Rose.”
This is Good’s second show at the Playhouse after she moved from Florida earlier this year. People should come to the show just to hear Good sing, Porter said.
With well-known songs like “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Let Me Entertain You,” the audience can enjoy catchy tunes performed by local talent.
Playing Gypsy Rose Lee, Porter grows from a timid teen to a confident star, and the change is made obvious through Porter’s acting. “Gypsy” is her fourth show at the Playhouse but the Oak Harbor native started doing shows 25 years ago. In her first show, she acted with her now fiance, who Porter said was supportive as she explored the role of Gypsy Rose Lee.
“I have had to step out of my comfort zone. It has been quite a growing experience for me,” Porter said.
While acting always requires becoming someone else, “This is really being somebody I’m not,” Porter laughed.
Porter’s favorite part about “Gypsy” is that it’s a true story.
“Gypsy Rose Lee was somebody who was born and raised in our backyard in Seattle and I think a lot of people in our community will know the story of Gypsy Rose Lee,” Porter said.
Medical emergencies caused the show to temporarily lose two directors. Rusty Hendrix filled in as temporary director and thanked the Playhouse board of directors for their volunteer work to help the show go on.
“Because of course we are all family here,” Hendrix said. “I love that ‘Gypsy’s’ become a family.”
Despite all the repetitive, challenging rehearsals, Hendrix said none of the actors or volunteers fussed. “They do it again and again with a smile.”
Building relationships is one of Porter’s favorite parts of acting at the Playhouse.
“A lot of the people in the Playhouse are regular people so you do build relationships with them and it makes you more comfortable on stage when you know the people you’re performing with,” Porter said.
This family has members of all ages. The show features seven children, ages 7 to 14, high school students and adults.
“The kids that are up there — and there’s a lot up there — are so excited. Most have never been in a show,” Hendrix said, adding that the audience is sure to see their enthusiasm and smile. “And the big kids are great, too,” Hendrix laughed.
Other children in the show are Miya Sanchez, Landon Hendrix, Alex Felger and Source Green. Adult actors include Matt Montoya, Allen Waite, Hector Powell, Katie McClimans, Uma Bernardo, Gabriella Szivos and Joseph Morgan.
See the show
“Gypsy” runs Sept. 28-Oct. 21.
Shows are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays; 2:30 p.m. Sundays.
Tickets cost $18 and are available by calling 679-2237.
The Whidbey Playhouse is located at 730 SE Midway Blvd., Oak Harbor.
For details, visit www.whidbeyplayhouse.com.