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Gypsy - KW Productions Review

Fresh off the back of their 2022 NODA award-winning 5-star production of Calender Girls The Musical, KW Productions returns to The Little Theatre in Leicester with the mother of all musicals, Gypsy.

It's no easy job to stage such a juggernaut of a show but director Keiran Whelan-Newby and assistant director John Bale expertly direct a fabulous production that is a delight to watch.

Debbie Longley-Brown as Rose and Katie Proctor as June. Photo by Dave Morris Photography

The show tells of Gypsy Rose Lee's rise to fame as a stripper but the central figure of the story is her mother, Rose, who is determined to make her daughters into stars. It's a mammoth role to take on but Debbie Longley-Brown is unflinching in her assured delivery.

Debbie allows the audience in, seeing her determination to push and push even when things are going wrong or rejections are thrown at her, but she also allows the audience to see the pain and the fear that she really is feeling. That sorrow for her own career not taking off and the worry of losing those around her - something she may not realise until it's too late. Vocally she is outstanding too, delivering the two big solo numbers 'Everything's Coming Up Roses' and 'Rose's Turn' with great skill. It's truly a remarkable performance on all fronts and she deserves endless praise.

Rose Bale blossoms as Louise, from the shy sister who lets June take the spotlight and is pushed around by her mother to becoming her finding her own way. The characterisation and journey is crafted beautifully, you feel with every scene that Louise is growing and growing, Bale majestically does this and by the 'Let Me Entertain You (Gypsy Strip Sequence)' you have a fully-fledged star performance. 

Rose Bale (Louise). Photo by Dave Morrs Photography.

Ava-Lily Creed delights as Baby June, with light bright energy and great athletic movement with Katie Proctor also giving a highly energetic turn as slightly older June but becoming increasingly disillusioned with her mother's pushy behaviour and the act on the whole. Both impress and you wish there was the chance to see more of them.

Tony Whitmore softly plays Herbie, offering something a tonic against the demands of Rose but also creating a lovely partnership. He is less driven by the dreams of stardom and just wants the best for those around him. 

Anyone familiar with Gypsy will know the stand-out second act number 'You Gotta Get a Gimmick' and here Karen Gordon as Mazeppa, Liz Kavanagh Knott as Tessie Tura and Victoria Price as Electra have a ball performing it. They have such confidence and fun that you can't help but smile watching the three older strippers giving it everything that they've got. Katherine Ardley is delightfully sweet as Agnes especially as she enters the dressing rooms of the house of Burlesque, Ardley makes a lasting impression.

There's some great supporting work by Andy Longley-Brown, David Lovell, Simon Butler and Joe Dickinson who all play multiple parts, Andy Longley-Brown is impressively comic and Butler and Dickinson move and sing brilliantly. Kerry Smith, Georgina Hall, Lyd Rushton, Ardley and a cast of children add sparkle to larger numbers.

Victoria Price (Electra), Rose Bale (Louise), Karen Gordon (Mazeppa) and Liz Kavanagh Knott (Tessie Tura). Photo by Dave Morris Photography.

Tim Stokes both plays Tulsa and showcases impressive skillful movement but also is the production musical director. He opens the show sitting at the piano before the more familiar Overture kicks in. Paul Timms navigates the music in the first act before Stokes himself takes that spot. Both do great work, in allowing for Jule Styne's score and Stephen Sondheim's lyrics to be delivered in a perfect match.

A rather lengthy 85-minute first act is paced better than the slightly clunky second act, the pacing becomes a little stilted in certain scenes that could be given a little more pep but that may come as the week of performances goes on. The staging is effective, rather than becoming about large spectacle it allows for the human side of the characters to play out in a more intimate environment. It's all the better for that creative decision.

Keiran and company have once again managed to achieve stellar work, creating a superb production of a classic musical. I attended alongside my father who said he preferred this production to a professional production we'd seen together previously. This production will entertain you and then some. 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Gypsy plays at The Little Theatre in Leicester until Saturday 24th June 2023 with tickets available from

Rose Bale as Louise and Debbie Longley-Brown as Rose. Photo by Dave Morris Photography.

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