Capsule Reviews

Dennis Brown and Deanna Jent suss out local theater

 Gypsy Scenically, this version of the ubiquitous musical about the emergence of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee is stripped to the bone, but sometimes -- as the cliché reminds us -- less is more. This Gypsy moves at the brisk pace the 1959 show requires. Here the sense of the time period (the 1920s and '30s) emerges from the performances -- especially that of Donna M. Parrone as the monstrously determined Mama Rose -- rather than the sets and costumes. The show also benefits from a live, brass-crammed pit band that veritably spits out the great Jule Styne score. Praise too to Gregory J. Conroy, a huge lump of a man whose unlikely appearance is the magic ingredient that helps make the longsuffering Herbie achingly believable, rather than the appendage the character all too often becomes. Presented by University Theater through July 18 at the Dunham Hall Theater on the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Call 618-650-2774 or 888-328-5168, ext. 2774. -- DB

West Side Story Spotlight Productions' ambitious staging of "Romeo and Juliet meets the Brat Pack" (or West Side Story) features some excellent voices and choral work. Bernstein and Sondheim's music and lyrics range from classic ballads ("Tonight," "One Hand, One Heart" and "Maria") to the jazz-hot "Cool" to the insipid "I Feel Pretty." Keith Parker and Christina Rios anchor the production as star-crossed lovers Tony and Maria -- their duets are heavenly. But the production suffers from slow pacing, tedious choreography and bland stage combat -- with the exception of the knife fight between Riff (Alan Naylor) and Bernardo (David Sajewich), which kicks up the action quite nicely. Jay Hall is suitably nasty as Lieutenant Schrank and Ronald Sladon plays Doc with world-weary frustration. Director Mike Traas adds a bizarre twist at the end that's more confusing than cathartic. West Side Story plays through July 18 at Marquette Theater, 2351 Clarkson Road, Chesterfield. Call 636-938-2362. -- DJ

 
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