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Stripping with Style: Gypsy @ The Gem Theater in Garden Grove – Review

Nicole Cassesso

Nicole Cassesso in Gypsy at The GEM Theater Courtesy: Gem Theater

Written by Alina Mae Wilson  
From picking up my ticket to driving away, my experience with Gypsy at the Gem Theater was a pleasant one. A well-acted script and some pretty costumes easily overshadowed the relatively minor sound and lighting issues.

Gypsy is a musical loosely based on the mother-daughter relationship between revered burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee (Louise) and, to a lesser extent, her little sister June Hovick and her abrasive stage mother, Rose Hovick. Burlesque existed before Gypsy Rose Lee, but the classic witticisms she interjected into her routine put her in a class of her own.

 While it is true that Beth Hansen, who played Mama Rose lacked consistent emotion in some of the earlier numbers (“Some People,” for example), I would imagine this can either be attributed to her conserving energy for some of the later numbers or her just warming up in the beginning. While I would have liked to see such utter “oneness” with her character from start to finish, watching her go off her meds onstage for “Coming Up Roses” and “Rose’s Turn” is just so enjoyable I almost don’t mind the earlier slips. My heart was welling with emotion for this person at the show’s end.

I felt Nicole Cassesso was convincing as Louise. This is a huge deal because while Mama Rose has the leisure of having singularly driven tunnel vision, Louise is seen feeling differently at different points in her life. I have always considered Louise to be more like three characters than one.

On Louise’s baton-twirling sister June, I will say this– I wish June had been less obnoxious. I realize that, to a certain degree, this is intended, but easing up just a notch would have made the character more identifiable and believable as not only a real person but as a member of the family. Louise and Rose receive the courtesy of not being treated as caricatures, and I wish June did as well.

They had an interesting take on Rose’s love interest, Herbie.   His mellowness throughout did not always seem to jive with his identity, mainly because his moments of anger appeared disingenuous. This effectively distanced me from these supposedly tumultuous moments. The sweeter interactions between him and Rose were loving and affectionate.

So the technical issues–they were there, but a pretty minute. There were maybe two songs where the live band overpowered the singing, and only one scene where the lighting irritated me. This was particularly noticeable as this was the last scene, and to emphasize the character’s drama and emotional state onstage, they lit everything up as brightly as they possibly could. This would have been fine, except this also lit up about half of the audience, giving the illusion that the show had ended prematurely. I get the need to set the scene, but they definitely could have afforded to tone it down a bit.

I am very glad that I saw this production. I went in expecting a fun and engaging musical performance and was not disappointed. Just overlook the few and far between moments of sound and lighting troubles, and you will find yourself bobbing your head and awing in sympathy for the conditions of the main characters in this exciting  American story.

Side note:

On a slightly different topic, but definitely in relation to the overall atmosphere, this place had the best concession stand I had ever seen inside a theater, community or not. They had cakes. Many cakes were baked by volunteers working backstage. And the typical cookies and brownies. That and the fact that they did not rush the audience made for a relaxed intermission.

The ticket price is $25.00 per ticket,$20 for seniors over 60 years old, 15 dollars for children 12 years or younger, and $10 for student rush tickets.

Ticket info at the website :


Location & Dates :

12852 Main Street, Garden Grove, CA 92840

August 21 – September 14, 2014



(from right to left) Margie Ikerd-Gyorgy, Fiona Claire Wynder, Carmen Tunis Courtesy: Gem Theater

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