At its heart, “Gypsy” is a show about the inability to grow, which is what makes a student production of the musical so captivating. With only two child actors in the cast, the rest of the children in the show are played by college-aged students. This forces the show into a sense of agelessness that is only accentuated by the titular performer and her sister being the only characters to age. As the original book to the musical only cites the characters lying about being the age of 10, this shift marks the repetition of the character’s actions as well as the mystery to how long these actions have been occurring.
This production of “Gypsy” is the 4th time the Dolphin Show has performed the musical in its 74 years. Advertised as the largest student-produced musical in America, The Dolphin Show boasts a total of 170 undergraduate students who volunteered for the production. The musical takes place during the height of vaudeville and burlesque and is based off of the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. The story involves a mother, Rose, who is desperate for one of her two children to reach fame and stardom.
Since the musical is a product of the memoirs of Gypsy, the relationship between Rose and her daughters is complex and unforgiving. Due to the complicated nature of Rose, “Gypsy” lends itself as a perfect vehicle for loud and confident actresses. Throughout the years, some of these actresses included Broadway stars, such as, Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters and Patti LuPone . Because of the musical’s lack of large production numbers in favor of large character-driven moments, “Gypsy” needs a strong lead actress to carry the show, and School of Communication senior Alex Getlin steps up to the plate. Delivering a performance that is overflowing with energy and power, Getlin stops the show at numerous junctions. Speeding through her lines at a frantic tempo, she creates an exciting pace that leads to heart-pounding climactic moments when it increases and touching emotional bombshells when it decreases. The only difficulty of maintaining such an intense pace is that when the show stops to rest, it can feel a tad lethargic.
Since Rose is a stage mom, it only makes sense for her character to constantly steal the musical’s spotlight. While the show material allows for Getlin to shine, the rest of the ensemble holds their own. The two children, played by Kylee Hennes and Meguire Hennes, are adorable and incredibly talented, while their adult counterparts, played by School of Communication seniors Grace Kennedy and Jessie Klueter, take more nuanced approaches. School of Communication senior Garrett Hanson’s rendition of the simultaneously cynical and idealist Herbie, Rose’s partner, is lovable like a dog. His loyalty and straight-forward line-delivery matches up perfectly with the dramatics of Rose. The men in the ensemble dominate the dance-centric first act, while the female ensemble gets its heyday in the second, more comedy focused act.
From a technical standpoint, the production value is high. The pit is well-rehearsed and the vocals blend nicely, with very few hiccups on either side. The stage is dressed to emulate minimalism, with large set pieces differentiating location. This general emptiness of space leads to an expectation of physically huge production numbers that never appear and an overall lack of spatial focus. That said, it can also lead to a few touching moments between the characters. The staging and lighting involve some very interesting concepts, with varying degrees of success. However, the work of the students does not go to the waste. “Gypsy” is a fully realized and professional-quality production, from start to finish.
“Gypsy” will have two more performances on Friday, Jan. 29 and Saturday, Jan. 30 at Cahn Auditorium. You can purchase tickets and find out more information at http://www.nudolphinshow.org/