Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

April 10, 2011


Westfield Theatre Group
Westfield Women's Club, Westfield, MA
through April 16, 2011
by Vickie Phillips

An ambitious task was undertaken by Westfield Theatre Group mounting the Tony award-winning Broadway Musical "Gypsy," pulling out all the stops with 31 cast members, 18 production staff and a dynamite orchestra with Music Director Karla Newmark and Conductor David Kidwell.

The story of the life of famous Burlesque Queen Gypsy Rose Lee from childhood to stardom with domineering mother, talented sister Baby June, and the enduring dreams of performers in show business, is familiar to both stage and screen audiences. Director Bob Laviolette assembled a talented local cast who entertained an appreciative audience. Starting with Kaylee Wilson, (Baby June) and Claudia Tosi (Baby Louise) auditioning for Uncle Jocko's (Rock Palmer) Kiddy Show, the message rings loud and clear. . ."talent notwithstanding prevails". All the unique visuals projected in the background, not only during the overture, but throughout the many scene changes are mega creative.

Jami Wilson (June) and Amy Szczepaniuk Meek (Louisa/Gypsy) have the challenging task of age range. Their duet, "If Mama Was Married" has solid vocal blend and staging. Talk about "growing" into her role, Meek's stature and talent as Gypsy Rose Lee is amazing. Her every Burlesque House scene shows her triumph of becoming a star. Then, the energetic "You Gotta Have a Gimmick" showgirls Winnie Legere (Electra), Rae Banigan (Tessie) and Bump It with a Trumpet Carol Palmer (Mazzepa) pull out all the stops. Palmer actually played that trumpet. These gals do grind their way into the hearts of the audience with their show-stopping moment.  Also, "Together" with Roxanne Labato Bailey (Rose), Steve Bailey (Herbie) and Meek, has a nice and easy on-stage play.

Choreography credit goes to David Bovat, who always creates a visual banquet for the stage. Keeping in mind that not all people in community theatre are actually dancers, Bovat tailors simpler but coordinated steps accordingly. Another outstanding credit goes to MaryAnn Scognamiglio for razzle dazzle costumes - most especially the Burlesque ladies who were bedazzling from head to toe.