Mama knows best
Mama Rose was a formidable force. The mother of famed burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc is the quintessential stage mother. This frustrated wannabe vaudeville star earned the reputation by relentlessly pushing her two daughters into showbiz, as detailed years later in the daughters’ tell-all books and subsequent musical.
Ethel Merman was a formidable force as well. When the take-no-prisoners powerhouse singer starred in the Broadway musical Gypsy, Merman and her incredible pipes owned the character of Mama Rose. Thankfully, the Fair Oaks Theatre Festival has found its own force in Deane Calvin, a local talent who embodies both Mama Rose and Merman in bawdy spirit and voluminous voice. From the moment she bursts onstage in Gypsy!, Calvin is Rose, a bodacious, brazen broad from her flaming-red hair to her booming and sassy voice. She’s determined to make stars out of daughters June and Louise (Rose Lee’s real name), despite the fact that their act sucks and vaudeville is losing crowds to the movies.
Not only is Calvin a kick, but so are the four actresses who embody the two daughters. Kaylynn Rothleder and the beaming Anna Russell-Madonia are the showbiz kids. Mary Cobb captures the charming teen June, while Analise Langford-Clark blossoms into the bewitching Gyspy Rose Lee.
Classic songs include “Let Me Entertain You,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Together (Wherever We Go),” which every Brady Bunch aficionado knows from the classic Carol-and-Marcia mother-daughter dance number.
Fair Oaks’ Gypsy! signals the start of the local outdoor theater season, marked by three-digit sizzling temperatures on opening weekend. Fortunately, by the second half, a small breeze cooled down the audience as Calvin turned up the heat.