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Appleseed Troupe Adds Creative Touches to Story of Burlesque Dancer, Controlling Stage Mom in ‘Gypsy’

July 13, 2008

By Geri Parlin, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

Jul. 13–LA CRESCENT, Minn. — Gypsy Rose Lee. She may be the most famous stripper who ever lived, and the musical “Gypsy” is her autobiography.

But stripping is only a small part of what this musical is about, says Ryan Stotts, who is directing the musical for Appleseed Community Theatre.

“She was considered the Queen of Burlesque. Her gimmick, as far as stripping, was that she was considered witty and intelligent. We downplay the stripping part,” he said, and there is no bad language or nudity. “But it’s still PG-13,” Stotts said, so you might not want to bring your 7-year-old.

What the show is really about, Stotts said, is “recognition and acceptance, certainly within a family. It’s really the story of a mother and a daughter. Stripping is so not the point. The heart of the play is about recognition. It’s about how we recognize ourselves, how we recognize our parents, and how we grow up to take care of our parents. That’s really what happens in the show.”

Stotts said he considers this the most perfectly written show in the musical theater canon. “The book and music are seamless. It’s one of the finest scores by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, and it has three of the greatest numbers — ‘Everything’s Coming up Roses,’ ‘Rose’s Turn’ and ‘If Mama Was Married.’ It captures things that most musicals don’t — the feeling of loneliness you get as a child, the extremes that parents will go to, and the kind of passion that happens in theater. It’s very much a backstage story. Actors really connect with this. This is a show that demands the best of everyone, and that’s what we intend to deliver.”

Part of what makes this production special, Stotts said, is that Ken Schelper has rescored it for two pianos instead of an orchestra. Playing those two crucial pianos will be Claire Stanek and Christi Nowland.

“Taking all the different parts and turning them into two pianos hearkens back to the Vaudeville era. It is written so well that you can do it without a full orchestra. We have two extraordinary pianists, and we have a great orchestrator and we have wonderful singers. I don’t think the audience is going to miss a full orchestra.”

Stotts said the rescoring took a year.

Though it’s a play with a lot of meaty adult roles, Stotts has found a way to incorporate children into the show.

“We have a lot of talented kids in it. The kids will be doing acts as they’re changing the scenes. Jon (Lamb) came up with bits for the kids to do. Those scene changes are only 30 seconds long,” Stotts said, but Lamb was able to cram a lot of choreography into those little bits of time.

“There is no negative time in ‘Gypsy.’ Jon and I, we don’t like things to sit there. We’re taking advantage of scene changes to keep the show moving along.” All of that, Stotts said, for just $10.

“If that’s not a good deal, I can’t think of what could be better. It would cost me $110 to see ‘Gypsy’ on Broadway.”

If You Go

What: Appleseed Community Theatre production of “Gypsy”

When: 7:30 p.m. July 18, 19, 25, 26; and 1:30 p.m. July 20, 27

Where: La Crescent High School Auditorium, La Crescent, Minn.

Tickets: $10, available at the door, and in advance at Merchants Bank, Quillin’s of La Crescent and Festival Foods in Onalaska.

Cast: Liz Arihood, Jen Roberdeau, Tom Bartig, Annie Jackson, Amanda Wright, Emily Shepardson, Sue La Crosse, Rhonda Staats, Julie Muellenberg, Auggie Whitford, Killian Harnish, Christian Clark, Thomas Gittens, Kyle Brauer, Aaron White, Philip Crary, Jordan Thompson, Maria White, Sierra Scherwerhorn, Lisa Misch, Bridget Misch, Brianna Hanson, Brenna Gustafson, Jordan Thompson, Kadee Brown, Anna White, Amalia Rae Brown, Becca Covey, Nicole Gilbert, Emily Clairmont, Allison Schaitel, Emma Smerud, Clair Shepardson, Debbie Brown, Garrick Brown and Tom Wright

Crew: Director is Ryan Stotts and choreographer is Jonathan Lamb.

Geri Parlin can be reached at gparlin@lacrossetribune.com or (608) 791-8225.

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Copyright (c) 2008, La Crosse Tribune, Wis.

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