Cygnet Theatre in Old Town has kicked off its new season with what it calls its biggest production ever – two dozen performers and six musicians. The show is one of the all time great American musicals, Gypsy, and Cygnet is worthy of it. Start with a no-holds-barred Mama Rose, Linda Libby, who played the same part a few years ago on the much-smaller ion theatre stage. Add a Louise-turned-Gypsy who radiates body heat in Allison Spratt Pearce. And to bring the house down, you’ve got Marlene Montes, Kendra Truett and Marci Anne Wuebben as three burlesque strippers who, to paraphrase just one of Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim’s wonderful songs, got a gimmick.
Yet as with any production of Gypsy, the proof is in the Mama Rose, on whom “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and much, much more depends. Libby has the requisite nerve and verve, but it’s the vulnerability she brings to the fore in Act 2 that distinguishes her. Both Spratt Pearce and Manny Fernandes, portraying Rose’s frustrated beau Herbie, share some aching stage moments with her, when the complexity of these relationships is in focus.
David L. Coddon is theater critic for San Diego CityBeat