About once a year now, the Mountain Play comes down from atop Mt. Tam’s 3,750-seat Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre and joins forces with the Ross Valley Players to present a classic Broadway musical in the 99-seat Barn Theater at the Marin Art and Garden Center.
This year, it’s Gypsy, A Musical Fable, the Arthur Laurents/Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim collaboration that has been an audience favorite since its debut over 60 years ago. Curiously absent from the Mountain Play’s repertoire, it’s absent no more as the show runs in Ross through Dec. 18.
Mama Rose (Dyan McBride), the mother of all stage mothers, will stop at nothing to make her daughter, Baby June (Alexandra Fry), a vaudeville child star. When the maturing June (Julia Ludwig) tires of the efforts to maintain the myth of youth and the dream of hitting it big, Rose turns to her oft-neglected daughter, Louise (Jill Jacobs). An unexpected booking in a sleazy house of burlesque leads to the creation of the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee.
Director Zoë Swenson-Graham, fresh off of the Mountain Play’s production of Hello, Dolly! (also starring McBride), does yeoman’s work bringing a BIG musical to the Barn’s small stage. McBride makes for a formidable Mama Rose, and is well supported by Jacobs, Fry, Ludwig and DC Scarpelli as Herbie, the put-upon manager and erstwhile fiancée to Rose.
The cast of 13 often does double, triple and quadruple duty, which works for many roles but doesn’t for others. The use of (mostly) adults in what are clearly roles for younger people lessens the impact of Rose’s efforts to maintain a child act well past its expiration date.
Recorded musical tracks provide the score for such memorable songs as “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Together Wherever We Go” and “You Gotta Have A Gimmick,” a show highlight, as performed by Tanika Baptiste, Libby Oberlin and Michaela Marymor.
The use of tracks combined with no vocal amplification made the well-delivered vocals feel like they stopped at the stage’s edge rather than filling the theater.
It was akin to watching a recording of a great live stage show on a television set. Audience members are gonna enjoy everything they see and hear, just not in the way it was originally meant to be experienced.
‘Gypsy, A Musical Fable’ runs Thurs-Sun through Dec. 18 at the Barn Theatre in the Marin Art and Garden Center, 30 Sir Francis Drake Blvd., Ross. Thurs, 7:30pm; Fri & Sat, 8pm; Sun, 2pm. $40. 415.383.1100. rossvalleyplayers.com.