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New & Old Classics: Shakespeare Festivals & Music Circus’ “Gypsy”

Austen Danielle Bohmer as Louise, left, and Carolee Carmello as Rose in “Gypsy.” Photo by Kevin Graft
“Gypsy” is one of the classics of old-fashioned Broadway musicals, and the version of it that opened Tuesday at Music Circus (official name: Broadway at Music Circus) is a classic of its own.

Carolee Carmello stars as Mama Rose, the stage mother of all stage mothers. She pushes her two daughters, Baby Louise and Baby June (especially June), into the spotlight and demands that they get attention.

Why Rose is so determined to turn her daughters – first June, then Louise after June quits their show – into stars is open to interpretation until the final scenes. When the show hits “Rose’s Turn,” it becomes crystal clear that Mama wanted the attention as much for herself as for her girls.

Although less well-known than “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Rose’s Turn” is a knockout number, one which Carmello belts the heck out of. The song also illustrates the sly commentary worked into the title of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” (The songs, by the way, feature music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.)

Not exactly a household name, Carmello has appeared in 14 Broadway shows and has been nominated for three Tony Awards. She is joined in the cast here by Austen Danielle Bohmer as Louise (who becomes Gypsy Rose Lee) and David Hess as Herbie, the quintessential nice guy who loves Rose and her daughters so much he sacrifices his career for theirs – until it all becomes too much to take. Bohmer and Hess are excellent, both revealing changes in their characters that will turn him from mouse to man and her from mousey underling to confident, some might say arrogant, star.

Glenn Casale directs the outstanding production and John MacInnis choreographs the dance-heavy show. One scene that is a guaranteed show-stopper is a dance number with strobe effects that “turns” Baby June and Baby Louise into their adult versions. It’s a marvel.

“Gypsy” plays at 7:30 nightly through Saturday, with matinees at 2 p.m. Thursday and Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday (final show, regrettably). Tickets are $45-$99. Music Circus is at the Wells Fargo Pavilion, 1419 H St. For tickets or for more information, call (916)  557-1999 or go to BroadwaySacramento.com.

What’s in A Name?

There are Shakespeare festivals and then there are “Shakespeare” festivals. Cases in point: Davis Shakespeare Festival and Sacramento Shakespeare Festival, currently going on.

This summer’s productions by Davis Shakespeare Festival are not “Shakespeare” at all. “Mary Stuart” is a historical drama about Queen Elizabeth I and Mary, Queen of Scots (Mary Stuart). In this play from 1800 by Friedrich Schiller (translated by Peter Oswald) Mary Stuart is imprisoned in England ostensibly for murdering her husband but actually because she claims the throne of England is hers, not Elizabeth’s. It’s the kind of play Shakespeare wrote plenty of, but not this one.

The other show this summer is “On the 20th Century,” a not-often produced musical that nevertheless won five Tony Awards when it appeared on Broadway in 1978-79. It’s about a theater producer who wants to persuade a Hollywood star to appear in his next show. He has only the length of a train ride to do the deal.

The plays are performed in repertory at the Veterans Memorial Theater, 203 E. 14th St., Davis, through Aug. 5.

If you wait until September (Sept. 19-Oct. 14), you will find Shakespeare in the Davis festival. It’s “As You Like It,” one of the Bard’s best-loved comedies. For more information on the Davis Shakespeare Festival, call (530) 802-0998 or go to ShakespeareDavis.org.

Meanwhile, in Sacramento’s William Land Park, the Sacramento Shakespeare Festival wraps up this weekend with “The Count of Monte Cristo” (by Christopher Walsh), “a dark tale of intrigue and vengeance.” But it’s not Shakespeare.  Also playing this weekend is one of Shakespeare’s great history plays, “Henry V,” in which the inexperienced new king declares war on France to prove his military strength. Any resemblance an American ruler is ….

“The Count of Monte Cristo” plays Thursday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. “Henry V” plays Friday and Sunday, also at 7:30.  Shows are performed outdoors in the William A. Carroll Amphitheater, behind Fairytale Town, in the park. Tickets are available at the door beginning one-hour before the performance or online at SacramentoShakespeare.net.

This isn’t to say that either of these festivals is bad – indeed, they generally are quite good, but one might think they trade on the good name of Shakespeare for added cache. Even the area’s most highly regarded festival, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival includes only four Shakespeare plays among its 11 productions this season. One of the non-Shakespearean plays is “The Way the Mountain Moved” by Idris Goodwin. One of Goodwin’s earlier plays, “Bars and Measures,” was performed by B Street Theatre in its old digs before moving to The Sofia.

About the author

Jim Carnes

Jim Carnes has masters degrees in English and journalism and is a former National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow in popular culture at Stanford University. He has covered Sacramento arts and entertainment for more than 20 years. He currently writes about and reviews theater, dance, music and events in the Sacramento area.

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