Strong roles abound in ‘Gypsy’
July 22, 2011
"Gypsy: the Legendary Musical" premiered in 1959, but the storyline about how stage mother Mama Rose’s antics impacted the lives of her children is timeless.
With each performance, the family-friendly production, which is based on the memoirs of burlesque star Louise "Gypsy Rose" Lee, gains new and younger fans, and those fans aren’t always found in the audience.
Emily Terran, 11, plays Baby June, Gypsy Rose Lee’s sister in the Dark Horse Company Theatre’s production that is currently running at the Egyptian Theatre through the end of the month.
The soon-to-be Ecker Hill Middle School sixth grader said she had no idea what the musical was about when she auditioned for her role.
"I didn’t even know June was a real person," Terran said during an interview with The Park Record. "I just went in and did the audition. I read over the script and didn’t know what I was doing, really.
"I didn’t know Louise ended up being in burlesque, either," she said. "That surprised me."
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The only thing Terran knew was Baby June’s description, which was sent to her just before the tryouts.
"She was described as a person who was around my age and is very fake and very outgoing and entertaining," said Terran, whose last production at the Egyptian Theatre was "The Boxcar Children" a few weeks ago. "In her real story, June was also a very talented person. When she was two, she could dance on her toes and became a star on Broadway."
As Terran began rehearsing, she started seeing other Baby June characteristics emerge.
"The older June in the play is a lot nicer than I thought she would be, so I’m trying to put some nicer elements in my part, because that’s the person she is going to become," she said. "I realized the older June is a very down-to-earth person."
The most difficult aspect of the role is dancing, Terran said.
"It’s the worst challenge I’ve ever faced," she said. "Theatre and singing are two of my strengths and dancing isn’t. I have a huge dance number and that was the most difficult thing for me to do. I could tell the choreographer was a little concerned, but I ended up getting it down, and the dancing team looks awesome now."
Although Terran has been in other productions, "Gypsy: The Legendary Musical" is one of the first professional plays she’s been involved in on this level.
"It’s been a great show and it’s been really fun," she said. "Teresa Sanderson, who plays Mama Rose, is so talented and I feel so blessed to be in a play with amazing people like her. I think it’s good for me to be around professional actors. I think I’ve learned a lot."
Sanderson said she is also blessed to be in "Gypsy."
"I’ve known the musical all my life and it’s been a favorite of mine since I was a kid," she said. "Mama Rose has always appealed to me, and I couldn’t believe it when Dark Horse was going to do the show and I might have a chance to play the role."
After learning she got the role, Sanderson challenged herself to bring out Mama Rose’s hidden attributes.
"A lot of times, she’s given a bad rap, because she really was a stage mom and certainly did things that, by today’s standards, would not be acceptable in any way," Sanderson said. "In her defense, she was abandoned by her mother as a young girl and left alone with a father who was closed off emotionally and didn’t know how to have a relationship with his daughter."
What Sanderson admires about the role is the tenacity and optimism.
"Mama Rose really thought she was doing the best thing for her kids," she said. "She really did love those girls and tried to do the best she knew how to do. All the underlined stuff that happened in her childhood and marriages is all there for you to pull from, and that’s what I try to do, instead of making her just this crazed stage mom."
As Sanderson immersed herself into the character, her own motherly instincts unfold.
"I am a mother and I have children," she said. "I do think you see the love and care, although her methods are strange. Even in her lines, you see and hear the concern."
Playing Mama Rose is a dream come true for Sanderson.
"I’m always interested in the meat of the role," she said. "I’ve been acting for 30 years, and in some ways I feel I’ve been preparing for this role my whole life. I love her and I’m so in love with this whole show. There are four or five roles on your bucket list and Mama Rose was at the top."
Dark Horse Company Theatre’s "Gypsy: The Legendary Musical" runs Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., through July 31. Friday and Saturday curtain is 8 p.m. Sunday curtain is 6 p.m. Tickets are $22 in advance, $25 at the door. Tickets for children aged 12 and younger are $15. For more information, visit http://www.parkcityshows.com.