Thursday, September 22, 2011

If You're Going to Do GYPSY!

I can never take off my director hat, so here's a few things I have learned about this show, for what it's worth:

It is absolutely the best book of a musical ever--it is all there on the page, and it is so tight that every time I think I need to "add" something like a gesture or clarify a reaction, I realize it is unnecessary. Just saying Herbie's lines is amazing, and now that I've really watched the coda between Rose and Louise (post-"Rose's Turn") I see how brilliant it is and how much Laurents' fighting for it made the show better.

When you do it, think of these things:

You really need a passerella--for some reason our Artistic Director decided we didn't need one, and though it can be done without one, it enhances the show immeasurably.

The expanded strip is not in the rental package nor, to my knowledge, an option, so you have to create it with the help of several versions of the show and a kick-ass music director if you want it...and you want it!

Goldstone is a props nightmare and must be in order to be funny. The more that can be on that table and wind up in his lap, the better, so start working on it right away.

Electra's outfit is a fucking nightmare, no matter how you do it, as there is always something that can go wrong with the electrical components. Solve it early and have an electrician on stand-by.

Children AND animals!!! 'Nuf said.

This is not a score that can be easily reduced--we have it down to 14, and that is the bare minimum. Brass is overwhelming, so the sound has to be managed cautiously, cause you can't ask those trumpets to do their job softer in this show.

You are not required to recreate Robbins' choreography, but you would do well to consider it long and hard before making anything but minor changes to iconic moments.

There are really divergent interpretations of the lead characters possible and the shadings that Laurents has given to each give actors a ton of room to work with. I spent a lot of time trusting that Herbie loved her without really knowing why, and though there is a certain amount of bickering in their relationship, there is ample room for actors to create a deep, meaningful relationship, and out of that process came my reasons and rationale for what I do onstage. Likewise, you can really play with how much Louise is party to the decision to Strip and not just make her a victim of her Monster Mama. And Rose, as Angela, Tyne, Bernadette, and Patti have proven, is NOT limited to a Merman-esque interpretation. Playing her straight-on works, but so do multiple oblique approaches. The one thing that must be there, however, is that the actor portraying her must be a star; in addition to being a superb actor and singer, she must own that stage and compel the audience to hang on her every word from her first entrance, not letting up once until the curtain call. I cannot think of a more exhausting role--worse than Sweeney, Cervantes, or Mack Sennett, I can tell you from the look I see on Heather's face every night as we're going home.

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