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Out & About / Ventura County | Theater Notes

Still a Hit

Cabrillo Music Theatre's production about striptease dancer is up to par.

November 12, 1998|TODD EVERETT | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Ventura County community theater heads into the end of the year full force, with nine plays opening this month. We will get to them all, but will begin this week with the well-known backstage musical "Gypsy" at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza.

Loosely based on the autobiography of Gypsy Rose Lee--perhaps the world's most famous striptease dancer--"Gypsy" was one of the last shows for which Stephen Sondheim seemed to be interested in writing hit songs (perhaps because he was writing only the lyrics; the melodies were provided by Tin Pan Alley veteran Jule Styne). Several of the show's numbers became standards, at least during their day; "Small World," "Let Me Entertain You," "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "All I Need Is the Girl" were favorites of nightclub singers and recording artists during the '60s.

The episodic plot is centered on Rose Hovick, an archetypal stage mother who forces her two daughters, June and Louise, through vaudeville. Most of her energy is directed at the more talented singer-dancer, June. By the end of "Gypsy," June has virtually disappeared, Louise has become an international celebrity, and Rose--well, her life has become a shambles.

The current Cabrillo Music Theatre production--if not quite as brilliant as their recent "Bye Bye Birdie"--is up to their usual standard. Professional actors in key roles are surrounded by local talent and all have been equipped with a full orchestra and relatively high-quality sets.

Ilene Graff has the strength to play Mama Rose, though, under Lewis Wilkenfeld's direction, she isn't portrayed as quite the monster Rose has been in other productions. Kristi McClave plays the older June, with Rena Strober as adult Louise, and John Charron--who choreographed this production--as young singer-dancer Tulsa, whose featured number is a highlight.

*

"Gypsy" runs through Sunday at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza auditorium, 2100 E. Thousand Oaks Blvd. Friday and Saturday evenings at 8, and Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 2. Tickets, $16-$29, may be purchased through TicketMaster at (805) 583-8700, or at the Civic Arts Plaza box office. For more information, call 497-8616.

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