"the gross and scope of my opinion ..." Hamlet I,1.
Friday, November 10, 2017
Little Theatre Company at the Palace
and author Gypsy Rose Lee was a close contemporary of Westcliff’s
historic theatre. Like
her, it’s witnessed the death of Variety. So
it’s particularly fitting that it should house this superlative
production of the show, and get its
moment in the spotlight, substituting
for T T Grantzinger’s Palace Theatre in New York.
all fans of the musical theatre will know, there’s been a
high-profile, starry revival of this, so
expectations must have been high as Essex awaited this production, by
Harper for the Little Theatre Company.
many times over, I would suggest, with a show that feels professional
in every department, from the polished sound of the pit band,
conducted by Clare Penfold,
to the glossy programme, edited by Gemma Carracher and designed by
not really about the stripper, of course, but her determined “stage
Rose. This force of nature is played by Stephanie Wilson; a marathon
performance that never misses a beat. The
numbers are impeccably sung; everything
is immaculately judged – pinching Pop’s long-service plaque,
picking up juvenile talent on the road, willing her daughters on from
the wings, upbeat at the end of Act One, broken and defeated at the
end of Act Two. We feel for her throughout her journey, so I was
relieved she got the relatively happy ending which was also used in
was an extraordinary tour-de-force by an experienced musical theatre
performer at the height of her powers. But it was by no means the
only outstanding turn.
Fillary, in her first appearance with LTC, is a superbly subtle
Louise, evolving from the lumpen “Plug” to the slinky star of
shy smile as she retrieves the glove she dropped is
turning point, perhaps. Her duet with “Dainty” June [Eleanor
Softly] – If
Momma was Married,
some of Sondheim’s best lyrics here – is beautifully played.
the generous, forgiving
Herbie, Ian Benson brought
a gentle charm and a pleasingly warm vocal tone. A lovely triple from
Paul Allwright, including a bemused “have an egg roll”
Mr Goldstone and Rose’s father.
Witherall’s choreography includes
some fabulously cheesy routines – the Broadway Chorus Boys – and
it is good to see a fine dancer [Chris
in the role of Tulsa, the boy who elopes with Baby June. His sequence
with Louise – All
I Need is the Girl
very movingly done.
strong all the way down the billing to Chowsie the dog. It would be
impossible to name-check everyone, but unforgivable to
omit the children – Holly Hall, with her Shirley Temple smile, was
Baby June when I saw the show – or the raddled strippers – Lianne
Larthe doubling Electra and the cynical Miss Crachitt in the
experience of Little Theatre Company, I think, and my last
“professional” visit to the dear old Palace. Wonderfully
memorable on both counts, I’m delighted to report.