The mother of all stage mothers returns Friday when a new production of “Gypsy” opens a three-week run at Allenberry Playhouse.
This 1959 musical, which earned Tony Award nominations but inexplicably failed to win any, has added several songs to the Great American Songbook, including “Let Me Entertain You,” “Together (Wherever We Go)” and perhaps most notably, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.”
The show, which runs through May 26, marks the end of Allenberry’s first season since the 69-year-old playhouse reopened last year following financial problems. A theater official said the first year has gone well.
“We have not had a show that hasn’t come in at 85 or 90 (percent of capacity),” said Dustin LeBlanc, who heads Keystone Theatrics, the company that stages plays at Allenberry. “We’re happy with how things are going.”
“Gypsy” tells the story of the driven Rose Hovick and her daughter, Gypsy Rose Lee, a famous strip-tease artist who worked in burlesque during the 1930s and ‘40s. The musical is based on Lee’s memoir of the same name, published in 1957.
Hovick was famously obsessed with theater, and her heavy-handed ways in pursuit of celebrity for her children eventually created a rift between her and Gypsy (along with a younger daughter named June).
While the show has serious moments, to be sure, it is also filled with touching scenes and ribald humor as Gypsy interacts with other burlesque performers, particularly a trio of strippers who offer her some career advice (“You Gotta Get a Gimmick”).
The creators of “Gypsy” were three men who are considered stage legends today.
The unforgettable music for the show was composed by the late Jule Styne (“Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “Funny Girl”), while a youngster named Stephen Sondheim (“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” “West Side Story”) provided the lyrics, and the late Arthur Laurents (“Hallelujah, Baby!” and also “West Side Story”) wrote the book.
The new Allenberry’s second season opens June 22 with the Cole Porter musical “Anything Goes.”
Meanwhile, Totem Pole Playhouse is preparing to launch its 67th season of professional summer stock later this month with a production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”
Producing Artistic Director Rowan Joseph, in his fifth season at the helm of a summer theater that once starred the late Jean Stapleton, said “Dreamcoat” remains popular with audiences almost 50 years since the famed duo of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber (“Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita”) created it.
“I think the show endures because it intersects music and Bible ... in a family-friendly way,” Joseph said.
There are two versions of the show, which is based on the biblical story of the “coat of many colors,” with Totem Pole choosing to do the one that features a children’s choir. The 20-member choir will come from the Cumberland School of Music in nearby Chambersburg.
The playhouse is premiering a “Family Fun Pack” for the show, which offers four tickets for $125.
“Dreamcoat,” which opens May 25 and runs through June 10 at the theater in Franklin County’s Caledonia State Park, will feature veteran actor Matt Rosell in the title role as Joseph. Rosell starred as Marius in 2014’s Broadway revival of “Les Miserables.”
“Oklahoma!” was the “Hamilton” of its day, running on Broadway for an incredible 2,212 performances following its opening on March 31, 1943.
Since then, the beloved Rodgers and Hammerstein musical has been staged worldwide thousands of times. On Friday, Chambersburg Community Theatre will add the latest chapter when it opens its own production Friday night at the Capitol Theatre.
“Oklahoma!” is a book musical, meaning musical numbers are integrated into a story narrative. It’s an approach that is common today but was innovative in 1943. The Rodgers and Hammerstein duo worked the formula to fantastic success in a series of classic musicals that included “The King and I,” “South Pacific” and “The Sound of Music.”
While “Oklahoma!” tells an entertaining story of small-town life in the Oklahoma territory, centered on the on-again, off-again romance of cowboy Curly and farm girl Laurey, the amazing songs are the real stars of the show.
From the opening “Oh, What a Beautiful Mornin’” to the closing “Oklahoma,” the show is packed with unforgettable tunes such as “The Surrey with the Fringe on Top,” “Kansas City,” “I Cain’t Say No” and “People Will Say We’re in Love.”
CTC’s production of this legendary musical runs through May 20.