"Josh Recommends" Gypsy’s Mama Rose ‘Sings Out’ in Winter Garden By Josh Garrick

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I’ve often commented on the fact that having theme parks as our largest local employers adds to our local “magic” by allowing for greater ORLANDO to present performing arts events with Broadway quality cast-members and support teams. If you question the validity of that point, you have until September 16 to see the Garden Theatre’s (Winter Garden) presentation of the classic 1959 musical GYPSY as proof positive of the magnificent gifts presented to Central Florida by the performers and directors whose “day-job” is acting a role at a theme park.  

Most specifically I’m referring to Tom Vazzana, who directs and choreographs this always amazing production, and to Andrea Canny who was born to perform and sing the musical’s central character of “Rose.” Based on the memoirs of the famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, GYPSY is more about Gypsy’s mother “Rose” than it is about Gypsy. Originally created as a show-piece for Ethel Merman, “Rose” has become synonymous with "the ultimate show business mother." It follows the herculean efforts of Rose to raise two daughters to “become stars,” (which they did in real life). For her efforts “Rose” has become a “monster.” Then-critic Walter Kerr said that while Rose may be a monster, “she must be liked and understood” as a survivor. Librettist Stephen Sondheim added, “The fact that she's monstrous to her daughters is secondary... She's a very American character and a life force. In the end Rose does confront who she is in 'Rose's Turn.' There is a catharsis.” Plus the musical contains a host of memorable songs including "Everything's Coming up Roses,” “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” “Let Me Entertain You,” and "Rose's Turn.” 

Gypsy’s Mama Rose ‘Sings Out’ in Winter Garden

To return to my original point, there are few people in the world who could direct a huge Broadway musical on the intimate stage of the Garden Theater. Tom Vazzana is a Show Director with Walt Disney World Live Entertainment, and not only has he directed this family musical with a special understanding of the dreams and drives of a parent, but he literally choreographs changes in scenes that take us from Seattle to Los Angeles to Akron to New York to Wichita and more with set pieces that tell the story and move fast enough so we do not lose the story-line.  

Gypsy’s Mama Rose ‘Sings Out’ in Winter Garden

 

And then there is the greatest gift of all – ANDREA CANNY (for years synonymous with Disney performance and casting) – here to perform one of the most celebrated and most difficult roles of the American musical theater. In a way similar to “fantasy-football,” I cast exceptional people in my (mental) “fantasy-Broadway.” Years ago when I first met Andrea Canny, she immediately became the Mama Rose I hoped to one-day experience LIVE on-stage. With her god-given pitch-perfect voice and her all-embracing charm, I KNEW Ms. Canny’s performance as Mama Rose would be wonderful. And then I attended the Opening Night in Winter Garden to experience a performer so completely ‘perfect’ for the role that I found myself convinced that I had been transported to Broadway. Andrea Canny’s performance as Mama Rose is so far beyond wonderful that “brilliant” and “magical” only begin to explain the catharsis Stephen Sondheim meant for the role.  

"Josh Recommends" Gypsy’s Mama Rose ‘Sings Out’ in Winter Garden By Josh Garrick

And shush those thoughts of how far Winter Garden is from your abode. This Broadway experience is worth the drive. If you only see one musical this season – SEE GYPSY.  And one more note -- Get thee to Winter Garden oh ye Directors of other performing arts groups. If Winter Garden’s GYPSY has “opened” the Fall Season of performances, know ye that Tom Vazzana and Andrea Canny have set the barre ‘magically high.’  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED – You bet it is!!! For tickets, call 407.877.4736 X 0 or visit gardentheatre.org. 

"Josh Recommends" Gypsy’s Mama Rose ‘Sings Out’ in Winter Garden By Josh Garrick

 

Josh Garrick is the Florida Arts Editor for Wandering Educators

 

 

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