This large-scale production with its plethora of children, animals and sequins was one of the more enjoyable productions I have seen this year. With a fantastic local publicity drive and a cast of thirty-six, it was also deservedly well attended.
In an unusual twist, the key role of Rose is being shared by two very different actresses, Lucy Eyre and Lindsay McNabb. Lindsay, on the evening I attended, delivered a very intense performance, in a moving portrayal of the ultimate stage mother. She conveyed a realistic relationship with Melissa Kiiveri and Gina Steinberg, usually paired with Lucy, as the younger Louise and June.
Bonnie Coyle was an unlikely choice as Dainty June, but delivered a vibrant and energetic performance. Samantha Warne, who was perhaps a little too method with her quiet delivery early in the piece, was an excellent Louise and transformed beautifully into the confident self-assured strip tease artiste.
Scott Burns, better known for playing brash and flamboyant characters, nicely played the downtrodden Herbie, while Josh Money was a likeable and charming Tulsa, whose dancing was outstanding.
Stealing the show was Claire Taylor as the outspoken stripper Tessie Tura, while Gotta Get A Gimmick, with Mirella Renel as Mazeppa and Hayley Mayne as Electra, was a showstopper.
A hardworking ensemble and some lovely brief cameos, especially those from Sally Lansley and Tim Prosser, added life and verve. Mavis Millerandteaotonga as Chowsy I and II and a rotating cast of lambs added extra magic.
I was looking forward to amazing costumes under the care of designer Merri Ford, but felt that they did not reach the heights usually expected from this queen of design. Similarly, while Stephen Carr's set design was clever, set changes were clunky and audience at the extremes of the auditorium saw more that they should.
While not always the best executed of productions, its scale, enthusiastic thrust and energy made it one of the most enjoyable productions so far this year.
Image: Samantha Warne as Gypsy Rose Lee