Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester – until 25 January 2019
Guest reviewer: Daniel Shipman
The Royal Exchange has built a reputation for consistently delivering knockout versions of classic musicals as an alternative to the traditional pantomime. I’m pleased to be able to say that the standard remains just as high this year – Gypsy is an absolute triumph.
The cast is remarkable. Ria Jones gives a powerhouse performance as Rose. Closing both acts with the musical theatre standards of ‘Everything’s Coming up Roses’ and ‘Rose’s Turn’, Jones’ vocal prowess enables her to capture the vulnerability behind the pushy mother whilst also giving the songs the raw power they deserve. This reading of the character is much more interesting and nuanced than the brash stage mother which Rose is often presented as, and the production should be applauded for emphasising this dimension in the character.
Melissa James traces Louise’s journey from supporting character to a break out star in her own right with an attention to detail I have rarely witnessed on stage before. In ‘All I Need Is the Girl’, her halting, hesitant dance duet with Louis Gaunt as Tulsa serves to highlight the timid nature of her character at that moment, whilst also allowing Gaunt space to truly shine as a dancer of immense talent.
The skill in this production is not confined to those on stage either. Francis O’Connor’s sparse set design lends a slick pace to the production whilst still capturing the fading, grimy glamour of the vaudeville circuits which Rose and her children inhabit. To take a show which centres itself on the traditional proscenium arch and stage it in the round is no mean feat, but the rotating arch of this production is a clever solution that manages to look impressive without seeming like a gimmick.
Gypsy has just extended its run to the 1st February so you have no excuse not to grab a ticket. The infectious energy of this show means you’ll be smiling all the way through and for the journey home as well.
Gypsy runs at the Royal Exchange until Saturday 1st February 2020.
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