Preview: Gypsy

Rose Aitchison 26 October 2017

A classic musical with real emotional depth, strong female leads, and songs you know? Yes, it does exist; Gypsy is coming to the ADC on the 31st October.

It's a musical which is as powerful and impressive as the title is uninspiring. The story follows Rose, a stage-mother par excellence as she goes about trying to raise two daughters for a life of stardom and glamour.

I had arranged to come to a rehearsal, expecting a crowd of cast members to be filling up the studio, so I was slightly taken aback to walk in on Alistair Henfrey, the director, and Michael Cullen, musical director, directing all their attention on the lead, Ashleigh Weir. They were going over 'Rose's Turn', an aggressive yet introspective number. The director discussed how much Weir should suppress her emotions and how much she should let them out. They seemed more sensitive to the emotional detail of the story than I have seen before in a Cambridge musical-theatre production.

Alistair is keen to stress that 'it’s not just that we have three female lead characters; we have three characters who are complex and flawed'. After some mild controversy over the 2017 Lent Term Musical in which female characters were said to have been portrayed one-dimensionally, Gypsy seems to be in no danger of landing the same criticism. Testament to how it seemed to many that the university needed a show like Gypsy, both the musical director and the director applied to put on the show separately before being teamed up.

Given the emotional complexity of the production, it does not need a gimmicky concept to make it work, and Alistair is content to call it 'classic'. I am always supportive of students who have the self-confidence to tackle a show on its own terms, and I have no doubt that the company of Gypsy will do it justice.

The Michaelmas Week 4 show will surely please fans of musical theatre in Cambridge, as it so often does. Yet perhaps it will also be able to appeal to those who can be turned off classical musicals. Gypsy is about so much more than glitz and glamour, and the director couldn't have a cast more equipped to deal with the highs and lows, the bright and the dark, and the happy and the sad.