Sunday, September 24

Gypsy – The Mill at Sonning

Can one live vicariously? Can one be successful through one’s child’s success? How much can one change when pushed to the edge of exhaustion? Welcome to Gipsy, a classic that will make you shiver in your seat.

This staging of the now classic Musical on the Mill at Sonning hits all the right spots. When going to the performance, the ticket includes a two-course dinner, about which this reviewer cannot knowledgeably comment, other than to say that it was almost as great as the main dish: the theatre part.

This play written by Arthur Laurents, with music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim is entire directed and choreographed for The Mill by Joseph Pitcher, with Francis Goodhand in charge of musical arrangement, direction and keyboards, Jason Denvir in the incredibly lively Set Design, and Natalie Titchener in the amazing Costume Design spot.

The plot of the play is widely known, a mother of two girls (Rose, played by Rebecca Thornhill) tries to make them famous in vaudeville acts, putting them both on stage, one on the spotlight (June, played by Marina Tavolieri) and one as a support (the play’s eponymous Gypsy Louise, played by Evelyn Hoskins). They find Herbie (played by Daniel Crowder) in the way, who helps them as a manager. Finally, June leaves, and that triggers Louise’s transformation into Gypsy, the most famous and highest paid striptease artist in the world.

Photo: Andreas Lambis

The story, however moving and heart-felt, is but a very good excuse for the music and life happening on stage from the very beginning, ranging from the ghostly apparitions of characters, the changes and transitions, and even the dancing table in the Little Lamb number. The constant rhythm and dynamic changes both in music, bodies, text and emotions that the characters go throughout the whole performance is mesmerizing, nothing short of magic.

An interesting consequence of this liveliness is the feeling of chaos and true life that goes around the stage. It makes even small details like the face of Hoskins’s Louise during Tulsa’s performance look beautiful and captivating, astonishing in its subtlety and emotional power. Within that chaos and mess, however, there are perfect rhythm and coordination, and every movement seems to add up to the dreamy and oneiric images. The show is not shocking, but fluid and soft. However, some specific numbers, mainly the acts by Rose at the end of each act, are electrifying.

In such a big cast, it would be reasonable to find uneven performances. But even if Crowder’s Herbie is slightly weak in the context, the whole array of performers in this play is marvellous. One of the highest points on the play was undoubtedly the trio of Tessie, played by Lara Tyrer, Mazeppa, played by Susannah Van Den Berg, and Electra, played by Natalie Winsor, who deliver an outrageous declaration of principles regarding burlesque. By and large, the impressive performances of baby June are jaw-dropping and bewitching, and every time Thornhill’s Rose appeared on stage, one could not wait to hear her sing again. Finally, the appearance and transformation of Louise into Gypsy Rose Lee is a rather short montage that will leave you begging for more.

An incredible piece of theatre and life, and one to be remembered, the whole experience is refreshening and wholeheartedly awesome. If you have skin, you will get goosebumps.

Playing until 15th July,

Reviewer: Gonzalo Sentana

Reviewed: 1st June 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.