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`Gypsy' dances around bad acting

Music, supporting actors save the show, but it still leaves much to be desired

Musical Theater Southwest's production of "Gypsy" is reminiscent of fast food. It tastes great while you're eating, but when the meal is finished, you're not as satisfied as you hoped you'd be.

A theater company must try very hard to butcher "Gypsy." Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim and Jule Styne created a bullet-proof musical. The songs are fun, brilliant, and mesh with the book with unusual ease, and the sets are simple.

The characters aren't hard to pull off, either. All a good Mama Rose needs is a lusty alto. "Gypsy" easily translates into an entertaining experience.

"Gypsy" is the tale of legendary stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and her tumultuous relationship with her stage mother. Gypsy, better known as Louise, and her sister June spend their childhood traveling from town to town on the vaudeville circuit. Mama Rose is determined that her daughters will be stars, and she sacrifices her children's education and her lover to achieve her goal. Show business becomes the family's livelihood. When the talented June elopes, the uneducated Louise must provide for the family by working in a burlesque.

MTS' "Gypsy" is indeed enjoyable. The acting, while not brilliant, is consistent and that is about all one can ask for in a local production of a musical.

Marina Garcia-Gelpe, who plays Mama Rose, lit up the stage with her zippy vocals, but faltered when it came time to deliver her lines.

Don Austin's compassionate portrayal of Mama Rose's lover, Herbie, glistens next to Garcia-Gelpe's lackluster acting. Austin does not neglect small details such as believability in order to focus on his vocal performance. Herbie is always subordinate to the domineering Mama Rose, but Austin captures Herbie so completely that he steals every scene.

Giovanna Garafalo's performance of Louise, the child actor turned stripper, is unbearably dull. Louise should have at least a little zip, especially after she hits the big time on the burlesque circuit. With the exception of the second act's stunning rendition of "Together Wherever We Go," Garafalo's scenes drag on forever. She consistently bombs her vocals, not too mention her acting, and nearly ruins the entire production.

The dancing, however, is excellent for a community theater production. Jon La Tour and Ronnie Nelson turn in particularly commendable performances as Angie and Tulsa. La Tour and Nelson's body lines are straight and crisp and both always take their steps with confidence.

Jaye Grout Franchell, Wendy Leverenz-Barker, and Pamela Powers are delightfully funny as three strippers who guide Louise through her first difficult strip. The three possess enough pep to compensate for Garafalo during their scenes together.

"Gypsy" is great fun in spite of a few flawed performances. "Gypsy" runs this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. at Popejoy Hall. Ticket costs range from $10 to $23 and are available through the Musical Theater Southwest box office. Call 262-9301for more information

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