The musical “Gypsy” has been called “the mother of all musicals.” If that is true, then Mama Rose is the Mother of all Mothers.

By Tom Valentine
The musical “Gypsy” has been called “the mother of all musicals.” If that is true, then Mama Rose is the Mother of all Mothers.
We are not sure if we are to love her or hate her. Sure, she is the “stage mother from hell.” Rose needs to be in control of everything in her life (and everyone else’s as well). She pushes her girls from an early age to succeed. Rose bullies them and manipulates them with double doses of hard love. However, even with the negative traits of a “smother mother,” we still sense a genuine love and affection for her kids with her turbulent and troubled heart.
     Enter Nicole Halmos in the iconic role (following in the footsteps of Broadway greats Ethel Merman, Angela Lansbury, and Bette Midler). She doesn’t miss a beat as she hits the stage in the opening sequence with the determination and ferocity of a mama bear watching over her cubs. Her energetic demeanor continues through her final number, “Rose’s Turn,” where she gets to display the cool confidence of a seasoned performer who is in total control of life (and the show).
     Cumberland Theatre’s production of “Gypsy” pulls you along as frantically as Mama Rose does her thespian clan. From small town venues to big city theaters, we discover the unglamorous side of vaudeville. Using a flexible stage set and dozens of costume changes, the three- hour production strips away the glitter of show business.
We see small hotel rooms, chow mein for breakfast, a menagerie of animals, kids, and that dream that most performers (and mothers) have that success will be just around the corner….or the next….or the next….
      It is a delight watching Rose’s kids grow up onstage. Whether it is Baby June, Dainty June, newsboys, or a dancing cow, the kids have a new routine that Mama thinks will launch them to stardom.
Sissy Sheridan is especially precocious as Baby June, with the older version of the character Alexis Krey continuing the cuteness- until she breaks her mother’s heart.
     Ken Griggs is a great foil as Herbie, the latest love interest of Mama. He is as down to earth as Rose is flamboyant. Being more sympathetic and world weary shows us a realistic world that Rose is reluctant to enter. Both Griggs and Halmos sing well together in “You’ll Never Get Away From Me” and “Small World.”
     The adult character of Louise is played by Kimberly Camacho. She blossoms into the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee with shyness and reluctance. Always in the shadow of her sister, Camacho’s character lets loose as the Queen of Burlesque - but with style and grace. She reaches that dream for her mother, but at what price?
     Some other great theatrical moments are reached in the production with Tulsa’s song and dance, “All I Need is the Girl,” done by Kohl Mitchell McKinley, and the harmonious, “If Mama Was Married,” sung by Krey and Camacho. Plus, the dance numbers with the kids (choreographed and directed by Kimberli Rowley) add to the spectacle of the show.
    Langston Hughes asks a simple question in his poem “What Happens to a Dream Deferred”? Do you just let the dream dry up like a raisin? Or do you let it explode?? In the case of Mama Rose, you might see a little of both….and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
     Cumberland Theatre’s production of “Gypsy” will continue May 24, 25, 26 at 8pm and May 27 at 2 p.m. Reservations and information are available by calling 301-759-4990.