Footlight’s production of “Gypsy” includes cast members, pictured standing, from left, Brittney Urban, Caroline Rau, Mara Huneryager and Lillybelle Nuest, and seated, Tom LeDonne.

Footlight Players’ current production of the musical “Gypsy” opened on March 6 to great applause. The show is listed as a memoir of the great burlesque queen, Gypsy Rose Lee, but we really see the story of the epitome of bound and determined stage mothers. Mama Rose is expertly played by newcomer to Footlight, Caroline Rau. Her voice is strong and exhilarating from her first song, “Small World,” up to the dramatic conclusion, “Rose’s Turn.” Let me preface this critique with acknowledgement of the many cast and crew members that it took to expertly put on this epic of a musical.

The story starts out with Mama overtaking an audition for her “babies,” June and Louise, played respectively by Teagan Bennett and Goldie Samardzia. These two little bundles of dynamite are on their way to becoming very formidable actresses. Along the way we meet the agent, Herbie, Rose’s love interest and provider. Tom LeDonne plays this role with the elfin charm perfectly. I only wish he had more of a chance to show off his vocal skills in a song. We get the chance to see Baby June and Little Louise turn into the mature twosome of Dainty June and Louise, played by Lily Bell Nuest and Brittney Urban. These two ladies have beautiful voices and one of the highlights of the show is their duet together.

I have to mention the exhilarating song and dance performed by La Porte’s Donavan Barrier. He plays Tulsa, Louise’s dream-lover, but runs off and elopes with June. (For the film buffs out there, June is in fact the actress June Havoc.) The end of Act One finds “the act” washed up with the only remaining member of the troupe being Louise. Although Herbie and she want Mama to settle down into a regular family life, Mama had another of her dreams that will make Louise a star.

When the lights come up after intermission, we are treated to a rehearsal of a sure-fire flop of an act, Mama Rose’s Toreadorables. Poor Louise is set up to mimic Dainty June, right down to her blond wig. Vaudeville is dead, but Herbie is able to book them for one more gig. Unbeknownst to any of them, it happens to be in a house of Burlesque. They are completely broke, so they have to take the job. Here we get the treat to meet three of the regular stripper’s who explain to Louise that stripping doesn’t take any talent, just a gimmick. Miss Electra (Kristen Allison) shows off her “electrifying” gimmick while Miss Mazeppa (Amanda Sixbury) tells her to “bump it with a trumpet.” Courtney Mason’s over the top performance as Tessie Tura (who does it with finesse) is worth the price of admission. The story quickly ends with Louise becoming Gypsy Rose Lee, the star that Mama promised her to be. This is the last straw for Herbie, and he departs. Now with June and Herbie gone and Louise a self-made prominent entertainer it seems that no one needs Mama for anything. She emotionally asks the question “Why did I do it? Who did I do it for?” in a stirring finale. Director Laura Meyer, Assistant Director Jan Rice, Musical Director and pianist Lee Meyer, Adrianna Le Donne on trumpet and drums and Production Manager Thom Nelson, should be proud of their hard work bringing this production to life.

The Footlight Theatre is a small and intimate venue with only 80 seats so make your reservation early, so you don’t miss out on this gem of a show. Footlight Theatre is located at 1705 Franklin Street in the bustling downtown area of Michigan City. To make reservations call their hotline at 219-874-4035 or go online and click reservations at The playdates are March 13, 15, 20, 21, 22 with curtain time at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays. Ticket prices are $15 with a discounted price of $10 for children 12 years and under.

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