There's some discontent rumbling in Utah County over Sundance Summer Theatre's choice of the Broadway musical "Gypsy" for its 1998 mainstage production.
Opening night is about a month and a half away, but already the Sundance office has received a telephone call from one Utah County resident objecting to Sundance producing the Tony Award-winning classic, claiming that impressionable young girls seeing the show will be influenced to become strippers at Provo's controversial downtown club, LeMar's.
Isn't this like saying that "Les Miserables" (the musical) will encourage your daughters to become Parisian streetwalkers? Or that "Sweeney Todd" will turn young boys into barbers with demonic tendencies?
Just how far-fetched can some thinking get?
My three daughters have all seen the musical version of "Les Miz" and I'm pretty sure none of them have been lured by the siren song of the "Lovely Ladies."
"Gypsy" ranks as one of the great "show-biz" musicals of all time. But it is not about stripping.
The central character is Mama Rose, the overbearing, obsessive stage mother, who literally forces her daughters - "Dainty June" and "Baby Louise" - into careers that neither wants. It's about parental authority running amok.
Is that scenario relevant today?
Taken to its grimmest conclusion, what about the tragedy of JonBenet Ramsey, whose parents paraded her through a constant stream of beauty pageants?
Or consider mothers who prod their offspring into the social clique called drill team. You've seen them - girls barely into their teens strutting around the football field, dripping in more layers of makeup than Tammy Faye Bakker and all decked out in scanty costumes and look-alike wigs.
"Gypsy" is about one brassy stage mother and her egomaniacal obsession - not about Gypsy Rose Lee's career in burlesque.
According to Sundance's public relations office, this summer's production will soften, somewhat, the normally flashy "Ya Gotta Have a Gimmick" number.
In real life, "Madame Rose" Hovick's dancing daughters became famous as Gypsy Rose Lee (who, despite her notoriety as a burlesque queen, never did "take it all off") and actress June Havoc.
Gypsy, whose 1957 autobiography was the basis for the Broadway hit, eventually moved into acting and writing. Her younger sister, June, had a fair-to-middling stage and screen career, despite emotional baggage left by her overly ambitious mother.
Regardless of what a few cranks may claim, "Gypsy" is a great musical with a terrific score.
By the way, Karen Mason, who understudied Glenn Close in "Sunset Boulevard," will play Mama Rose in Sundance's production.
- WHAT'S AHEAD for some of the area's up-and-coming talent?
I don't often attend high school productions (I have my hands full with the Wasatch Front's many professional and semi-professional companies), but I did take the time to see Layton High School's recent edition of local playwright/director/choreo-grapher James C. Christian's "The Pirated Penzance" (a musical which deserves far more national exposure) and East High School's impressive "Take Five" program.
If you've ever wondered about where our future performing and writing talent is coming from, these provide two fine examples.
- "Take Five," now in its 35th remarkable year, is a year-round school project. Students write and submit their own original play scripts during the first semester of school, after which five are selected for full production in an evening of one-act plays later in the year.
The plays weren't polished to perfection, but there were moments of true genius. Aurora Moore, a junior, wrote a stunning piece called "Irishman Far From Home," directed by Mason Aesch-bacher.
In only 15 minutes, Moore dramatically encapsulated the passion and emotions of the longtime British/Irish feud in Belfast. Her central characters - a gentle, intelligent Irish poet, his angry, short-fused friend and a professor from Cambridge - meet in a New York pub for a few rounds of beer, served by an attractive Irish lass.
Moore demonstrated how succinctly written dialogue can quickly get the point across.
I expect to see more great work from this accomplished young writer. (I can hardly wait to see what she does next year.) The two young chaps playing Jerry and Michael also did an exceptional job with finely honed Irish accents.
- Dustin Strickland, a talented senior at Layton High School, starred in the big, energetic production of "Penzance," which places the classic Gilbert and Sullivan operetta in the hands of a tyrannical Hollywood movie studio in the early days of the talkies.
Strickland, who already has a scholarship to Weber State University's musical theater program - and who is planning a career in the performing arts - shows a level of talent far beyond his years.
You can catch him this summer in both "Damn Yankees" and "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" the two mainstage Utah Musical Theatre offerings in Ogden. Dustin's singing and dancing already look professional.
- WHAT'S NOT PROFESSIONAL is the misspelled show-biz jargon popping up in recent news releases . . . written and submitted by allegedly "professional" groups.
In two unrelated instances, there were references to "musical reviews." Make that musical revues.
One company also made a particular point of emphasizing that it was a "professional troop," making me wonder if it involved Boy Scouts-for-hire. The theatrical version is troupe.