CLT packs a lot of entertainment into ‘Gypsy’

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AUBURN — A large cast and crew have packed a lot of entertainment into the current Community Little Theatre production of “Gypsy.”

It’s anchored by a powerful vocal and dramatic performance by Jennine Cannizzo of Portland. She portrays Mama Rose, the over-the-top mother of all stage mothers. Her role includes several iconic songs including “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Some People,” and “Rose’s Turn.”

Cannizzo was seen a few months ago as Matron “Mama” Morton in CLT’s hit production of “Chicago.”

Michel Litchfield, an audience favorite with appearances in more than 20 CLT performances, lends solid support as Herbie, whose matrimonial aspirations always have second billing on Rose’s priorities.

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“Small World” and “You’ll Never Get Away from Me” are lovely ballads Litchfield sings with Rose, and he joins Rose and daughter Louise in “Together Wherever We Go.”

Joanna Clark of Portland plays Louise, the daughter who doesn’t quite measure up to sister June in Mama Rose’s ambitions. It’s a subtly dramatic role handled expertly by Clark as Louise gradually evolves into famous strip tease artist Gypsy Rose Lee.

The show has some interesting ways to deal with the passage of time for the sisters. Two younger actresses, Zoe Dinnerstein as June and Marie Groover as Louise, play the parts in pre-teen years, and Mackenzie Richard gives a fine performance as the older June. As Baby June, Zoe Dinnerstein has several well-done Shirley Temple-type appearances.

Mama Rose insists on getting her daughters and a quartet of boys and girls on stage through the years in several variations of a worn-out act. Nine young performers who appear as newsboys, farm boys, and Toreadorables do a very good job with brief and amusing appearances.

A small, but notable part is Tulsa, played by Christopher Hodgkin. He is a member of Mama Rose’s troupe who yearns to break away for a career of his own.

His rendition of “All I Need Is a Girl” is outstanding for vocal quality as well as some capable footwork.

There’s a scene in “Gypsy” that’s a show-stopper in every production. That’s when a trio of strippers give some advice to novice Louise in “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” It’s pure hilarity with Eileen M. Messina as Miss Electra, Renee Mahon Davis as Tessie Tura, and Nichole Chase as Mazeppa. Messina has been involved in three CLT productions of “Gypsy.” First, she was the balloon girl at the age of 7. Next she played Louise/Gypsy in the early 1990s when her mother, Mary Glen Rosenberg, played Mama Rose. This time she dazzles the audience as Miss Electra.

Some of the other musical numbers are “If Mama Were Married” by June and Louise, and “Let Me Entertain You,” which is done in varied contexts throughout the show.

“Mr. Goldstein” is a comedy song featuring Jim McKinley. He has been seen in several CLT shows since 1971.

CLT veteran Roger Philippon has supporting parts as Uncle Jocko and a strip club owner.

Paul G. Caron directs this production of “Gypsy.” He has been music director for many CLT shows, and for this show he passes the baton to his niece, Rebecca Caron. She has been involved in theater music in more than 45 productions, and she plays keyboard and leads a 10-piece on-stage orchestra for “Gypsy.”

The staging utilizes minimal sets with quick scene changes, and it keeps the story moving at a fast pace.

Adam P. Blais is choreographer for “Gypsy.”

This musical by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim debuted on Broadway in 1958 and it was later a hit film with Rosalind Russell, Natalie Wood and Karl Malden.

Remaining performances of “Gypsy” are at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, April 6-8, and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 9.

For tickets, call the CLT box office at 783-0958 or go online to www.laclt.com.

Great Falls Performing Arts Center is at 30 Academy St., Auburn.

Jennine Cannizzo of Portland as Mama Rose and Joanna Clark of Portland as her daughter Louise,  in “Gypsy,” which is currently in production at Community Little Theatre in Auburn. 

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