Next Door’s GYPSY (running through March 29th) is a study in contrasts: Kerry A. Dowling stars as Mama Rose, the ferocious, over the top mother of all stage mothers, practically devouring her young while she professes to make them “stars.” Marge Dunn is her polar opposite as sweet Louise, the overlooked sister who finally comes into her own to become Gypsy Rose Lee, consort of kings (Hollywood kings, that is: Many years later she revealed that director Otto Preminger had fathered her son.). The Arthur Laurents/Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim musical stops the story after Baby June leaves and Louise becomes a star but their real life stories could fill another whole musical.
Some of the scenes seem crowded into the corners of the stage in director SaraJane Mullins Pompeo’s production, making Next Door’s GYPSY seem unnecessarily claustrophobic but some fine performances (and clever choreography) center the story. Haven Periera and Eowyn Young play June and Louise as children, introducing the “Let Me Entertain You” number which will take on an entirely different meaning when Louise grows up to perform David Costa’s smart, suggestive choreography in the burlesque.
Allison Russell and Dunn excel as the sisters: Their “If Mama Was Married” is as innocent as it is charming. (You really notice Dan Rodriguez’ stripped down, four piece orchestra in some numbers but not that one.) Doug Jabara is a kindly Herbie (whose “Together” with Dowling and Dunn is delightful) and Robert Hallisey shines in several roles (a sleazy clown, an overwhelmed Mr. Goldstone and a crusty, cigar chomping stagehand). But it’s Sarah Jones who runs away with the show as the tough, trumpeting stripper with the “Gimmick.” She doesn’t miss a note. If only she’d been in the pit.