MILO YIANNOPOULOS argues enthusiastically that ‘despite being rough around the edges, Gypsy is an awful lot better than “not bad.”’
Wednesday 3rd – Saturday 6th, 7.45 at Cripps Court, Magdalene, £4-7.
Directed by Emilie Jouffroy.
What Ever Happened To Baby June? That was the thought going through my mind during the interval of Gypsy, as I meditated on the ponderousness of the first act's latter half, which I felt suffered in the absence of Katie Taffler’s June. Little did I realise that Millie Benson’s magnificent Mama Rose would get even better, or that Tommy Crowley would blossom into such a brilliant stripper.
Yup, you heard that right. After a family-friendly first half, sustained by the combined talents of Taffler and Benson, Gypsy basically disintegrates into striptease meta-theatre. Boys need read no further: go book your tickets now. Girls, carry on if you want to know more about a play that chronicles the decline of a vaudeville troupe with more line-up changes than the Sugababes and as many hits as One True Voice.
Uncommonly, the supporting actors deserve high praise too. Laurie Marks was hilarious in each of the three parts he took (even his perpetual corpsing was adorable). Ed Wagstaff was particularly funny, while the faintly camp Jake Arnott provided eye candy while singing, somewhat unconvincingly, of his need for a girl. Top marks to the stage manager, too, for resisting the temptation to illuminate an LED bra more frequently than the music commanded.
Gypsy is not overwhelmed by an excess of plot, and it’s crammed full of songs that couldn’t sound more like porn movies if they tried (my personal favourite: “Dainty June and Her Farmboys”). But it isn’t just saucy fun: Benson’s final song, “Rose’s Turn,” raised her portrayal of a psychotic stage mum into something genuinely affecting. When it comes to university musicals, the safest strategy for the critic is generally to say, “Well, it’s not bad for a student performance.” But despite being rough around the edges, Gypsy is an awful lot better than “not bad.”
Naturally, there are a few improvements to be made in the coming days. It was a shame, for example, that the brass section seemed to have arbitrarily chosen a different key to play in from the rest of the band. And I was shocked at the horribly wooden acting and listless, often incomprehensible delivery from Henry Male. If this was deliberate “acting”, I humbly suggest that he drops it for the remainder of the run.
As anyone who has wandered through Magdalene in the last few weeks will have noticed, the promotional material for Gypsy falls gloriously short of its aspirations. Fortunately, however, the production does not. Highly recommended.
Before I sign off, a final word to the staff at Magdalene’s Cripps Auditorium: the surest way to kill the mood of an audience immediately prior to performance is to issue interminable, stern admonitions about eating, drinking and mobile phones. WE GET IT. Having never been to the Auditorium before, I don’t know if this is standard practice, but if they intend to continue this policy, I pray they elect someone a little less bossy and patronising. It just spoils the mood, alright?