Before Toddlers With Tiaras and Dance Moms… There Was Rose!


A Review of Gypsy by Dewey Oriente and Tony Cassidy

It was swell! It was great! Opening night of  Gypsy at Bristol Riverside Theatre was first rate! What can be called the crowning jewel of BRT’s 25th Anniversary Season Gypsy, starring the four-time Tony Award nominated Broadway veteran Tovah Feldshuh, moved the audience (especially these two
reviewers) in a way that we have never seen Rose portrayed. Tovah’s take on the iconic role took the character from the highs and lows living her life vicariously through her daughter’s careers and wrapped them up in a truly unique package of when her character needed to take action, the fire in her eyes and the raving richness of her bellowing voice showed that she was a force to be reckoned with. Tovah’s Rose never shuts down, as we can see she is always simmering even when she is in the background. We have seen many a Rose take us on the journey, but this would be the first time we felt the driving force pushing us into the story as she pushed her daughters into theirs. Mazal Tov to you, Tovah for this truly rare look into Rose’s life.

More after the jump.
Tovah’s brilliant portrayal of Rose was complemented by the wonderful talents of Emmy Award Nominee Robert Newman as Herbie and the delightful Amanda Rose as Louise. Broadway should prepare itself for its next “song and dance” man, Joe Grandy, whose portrayal of Tulsa solidified that this talented young man is going to be a star! Mr. Grandy executed Kathryn Kendall’s choreography brilliantly and truly made the
audience believe he was creating the movement on the spot. Speaking of Kathryn Kendall, who put her talents into overdrive as the show’s choreographer as well as portraying Miss Cratchitt and the ever so subtle Mazeppa, showcased herself as a true seasoned professional who has the entire package! Watch out for Bethe B. Austin who knocks the Tessie Tura character out of the ball park with a grand slam performance.

This production is a “must see”. And if you have never been to visit the Bristol Riverside Theatre, you must visit to take in its charm as a delightful performance space. The friendliness of the box office staff, the ushers and everyone involved in the evening truly made you feel appreciated for coming out to support their efforts.

Upcoming productions included in their 25th Anniversary season include a new play, A Raw Space by Jon Marans, the laughter through tears masterpiece Steel Magnolias by Robert Harling, and finishing out the season Jonathan Larson’s Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning musical Rent.

Gypsy is presented by Bristol Riverside Theatre, 120 Radcliffe St., Bristol, PA now through Jan. 15th. Tickets: $40-$65. Information: 215-785-0100 or www.brtstage.org<?a>.

King Lear of a Role: Tovah Feldshuh in Bristol Riverside’s Gypsy


Broadway veteran and four time Tony nominee Tovah Feldshuh will star as Momma Rose in the Julie Styne-Sondheim-Arthur Laurents musical Gypsy at the Bristol Riverside Theatre December 6, 2011—January 15, 2012.    I had the chance to interview Ms. Feldshuh about the upcoming show and her life as a performer.  

Gypsy opens on December 8, which is a good omen, as Tovah noted it’s the yahrzeit (anniversary) of Golda Meir’s passing as well as the date of her own Bat Mitzvah.    Tovah performed Golda’s Balcony, the longest running one-woman show on Broadway, at the Bristol Riverside in 2010.  

Tovah was not always called Tovah: “I was named after my Aunt Tilley who died in her 30s from tuberculosis.  The Sue comes from my Great Grandmother.”  After she changed her name from Terry Sue to Tovah, her Hebrew name, and began her performance career Tovah said that “it changed the landscape of my life.”  She starred in Yentl on Broadway and in Golda’s Balcony on Broadway, the longest running one-woman show.  But interestingly, she has worked hard not to let her notable Jewish name typecast her: “I’ve played all kinds of roles from Diana Vreeland to judge Danielle Melnick in Law & Order and now, Rose in Gypsy.  What’s in a name? Everything.”

Gypsy is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist, and focuses on her mother, Rose, whose name has become synonymous with “the ultimate show business mother.”  Following the dreams and efforts of Rose to raise two daughters to perform onstage, the musical contains many popular standards, including

Interview follows the jump.

LG:   When I look at the all the things you do between Law and Order and your one-woman shows, films, and now Gypsy, I wonder how you do it all.  Would you consider yourself a driven person?

TF:  I’m at the prime of my faculties as an artist.   I’ve worked hard for my achievements.  As I get older, the process slows down, but the wisdom increases

LG: Gypsy is a play about a lot of things, but at its heart, it explores the mother-daughter relationship.   How has being a mother and a daughter shaped your life?

TF:  Gypsy is a King Lear role for a woman.  I’m trying not to be derivative in my performance.  Rose is a woman of flesh and blood and guts, not a beast.   She’s driven.  I think the abandonment of her mother is the key to her character.   From the moment you have children, they come first.  So you necessarily have to slow down.   But I think my husband and I did ok – as Amanda’s at MIT studying physics and Brandon is at Harvard studying economics.  

Tovah began to sing some lines from the song, Rose’s Turn for me.    

LG: Did you encourage your own daughter, Amanda, to become an actress?

TF:  I discouraged my own children from going into show business.  

LG:  Why?

TF:  I’m very bourgeois.  

LG: What would you have been, if not an actress?

TF: I came into the theatre after I was wait-listed at Harvard Law School.   My Father went to Harvard Law, and it just so happens so did my husband, who I adore.  You don’t need Freud to figure out how this work!.   It was my brother, (David Feldshuh a Pulitzer price nominated playwright for Miss Evers’ Boy) who encouraged me to apply for the McKnight Fellowship, which I received, and this launched my career.

LG: You have worked in show business for 37 years.    You have done film, television, musical theater, drama – how does this fit into your bourgeois bias?

TF:  I’ve been on my own since I was 21.  I had to live life on a budget and worry whether I had enough money for cab fare in NYC.  At 23, when I was starring in Yentl on Broadway, I decided I didn’t want to be poor.    I was committed to making enough money so I could have some freedom.   I have always tried to balance more commercial jobs with more artistic projects.   I also married a Harvard trained lawyer, which helps!

LG:  Do you have stage fright?

TF:  No, I’m at home on the stage.    Being on the stage is like a warm bath.  I let the gold dust settle where it settles.  I try to remain very loose on the stage and let the truth of the character bubble up.  I hope audiences will see my full skill set in action in this performance of Gypsy at the Bristol.  

LG:  What are you currently reading?

TF:  I’m listening to the book American Rose about Gypsy Lee Rose’s life.  I’m also listening to my voice teacher on an Ipod, as I have to stay focused on my singing.  

Tovah sang a few more bars of Rose’s Turn for me and had to return to rehearsal.  

Tovah Feldshuh stars in Gypsy at Bristol Riverside Theatre as part of its 25th Anniversary Season on December 6-January 15.  With music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents, the production is directed by Keith Baker and also features Robert Newman, Amanda Rose, Brittney Lee Hamilton, Joe Grandy, Bethe B. Austin, Kathryn Kendall, and Demetria Joyce Bailey.

Previews begin Tuesday, December 6 with opening night on Thursday, December 8.  Performances run Tuesday through Sunday until January 15.  Tickets start at $40, with discounts for students and groups.  Tickets are available online or by phone at 215-785-0100.  Bristol Riverside Theatre is located at 120 Radcliffe Street in Bristol, PA.