Starring Wakefield’s Leigh Barrett & Emily Sheeran

There are plenty of good reasons to see the current production of Gypsy at Stoneham Theatre, especially if you’re from Wakefield.

First, Gypsy is the quintessential American musical, an instant classic from the day the original production starring Ethel Merman opened on Broadway in 1959.

Second, in an effort to make the current production its biggest and best ever, Stoneham Theatre has pulled out all the stops, with a cast of 25 (including two dogs) and an 8-piece band on stage providing live instrumental accompaniment for the songs. The result is top-notch professional musical theater that you don’t have to travel to Boston or Beverly to see.

From a purely Wakefield point of view, there are two more compelling reasons to see Gypsy. The show features two actresses with Wakefield roots.

Wakefield native and 1983 WHS graduate Leigh Barrett plays the lead female role of Mama Rose, the brash and overbearing stage mother of sisters Louise and June, whom she is determined to make into show business stars.
Barrett is a multiple award-winning actress who has risen to the top of her profession with starring roles in shows like Sweeney Todd, Jacques Brel, Threepenny Opera, Follies, Souvenir and Ragtime. She has appeared on professional stages all over Boston, as well as North Shore Music Theatre and Gloucester Stage Company.

Playing the role of Baby June is Walton School fourth grader Emily Sheeran, daughter of Chip and Elizabeth Sheeran and granddaughter of Wakefield Selectman Betsy Sheeran. Emily has already compiled an impressive professional resume with performances at North Shore Music Theatre, Stoneham Theatre and others.

Sporting blond curls and a red and white polka-dot dress, Emily is endearing as Baby June, singing “May We Entertain You?” as one half of the sister act that also included the less-talented Louise (who as an adult took the stage name “Gypsy Rose Lee.”)

Gypsy is based on the autobiography of Gypsy Rose Lee, and tells the story of Mama Rose’s determined if misguided drive to push her daughters to stardom in the waning days of vaudeville. The show follows the girls from a very young age into adulthood, with different actresses playing the girls as they grow up. Following Emily Sheeran’s “Baby June” comes Lauren Wood as the teenage “Dainty June.”

Emily Pinto plays Baby Louise until Eve Kagan picks up the role as the teenage Louise and ultimately Gypsy Rose Lee. Kagan does a nice job balancing the shy, vulnerable young Louise who is uncomfortable with life on stage, and the adult Gypsy Rose Lee—-a glorified stripper/actress who carved out a show biz persona and career of her own despite her mother’s push as much as because of it.

Leigh Barrett humanizes the brash, stubborn Mama Rose, revealing her authentic love for her girls, even as she tries to live her own life through them.

I won’t pretend to be an expert on singing voices, but when you see and hear Barrett perform standards like “Small World,” “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Together Wherever We Go,” you will understand why she has received such wide acclaim.

Veteran stage actor Scott H. Severance plays Mama Rose’s long-suffering suitor and the girls’ agent.

If you don’t go to see Gypsy because of local connections like Leigh Barrett and Emily Sheeran, then go see it because it is top-notch musical theater starring some of the region’s best professional talent.

Gypsy runs through October 7 at Stoneham Theatre, 395 Main St., Stoneham. For show times and tickets, go online at http://www.stonehamtheatre.org/ or phone 781-279-2200.

[GYPSY, by Arthur Laurents, Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim. Directed by Caitlin Lowans. Set Designer, Gianni Downs. Costume Designer, Jenna Lourenco, Lighting Designer, Christopher Ostrom. Production Stage Manager, Sarah Hilary Johnson. Production Manager, Dave Brown. Choreographer, Kelli Edwards. Music Director, Todd C. Gordon.]

This review originally appeared in the Wakefield Daily Item.


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