The temporarily revamped Raven Performing Arts Theater has set the stage for Gypsy, a two-act musical, opening tonight.
“We [the Raven Players] began rehearsals just seven weeks ago,” said Gypsy director Joe Gellura. “We’ve been rehearsing four days a week.
“I think I like it better than the usual 12-week rehearsals with only one or two sessions each week,” he continued.
The theater throbbed with excitement at the dress rehearsal held last night. There was some grumbling and impatience during the mic check and set-designer David Wright appeared frazzled.
The play “explodes with wonderful music that you'll be singing long after you leave the theater,” Gellura said.
The music is by Jule Styne and lyrics by Steven Sondheim.
“This play opened on Broadway 53 years ago,” said Gellura. “You know all the songs—you just don’t know you know them.”
This Raven Players’ production is one of the most ambitious ever undertaken. The theater has been temporarily refurbished to remove seats in order to incorporate a wing (backstage) and to accommodate the 15-member orchestra and 17 set changes.
“It’s been 15 months from idea to acquiring the rights to developing the design team,” Gellura said.
"This is the only theater that allows an orchestra this size," said music director Les Pfutzenreuter. He indicated that the Raven Theater was his favored venue.
Twenty-eight actors, from seven to 73, represent the changing roles over the course of this two-act play. A Pekingese even gets into the act.
The focus of the play is on stage mother, Rose, who is driven to promote her two daughters, Baby June and Louise, in vaudeville. Rose is the typical domineering stage mother, pushing her outgoing daughter, Baby June, and her shy daughter, Louise.
Baby June tires of her mother and elopes. Rose is forced to promote Louise. Agent turned manager, Herbie, walks out, too, during the second act. Louise is accidentally booked to do a burlesque show rather than vaudeville and the bold Gypsy Rose Lee develops out of that accidental booking.
Louise becomes confident and learns she no longer needs her mother. Rose, then must face her own unrequited dreams and understand how she drove everyone away.
“It’s not often that you find such a complex character as Rose,” said Gellura. “It’s intriguing.”
Of the seven or eight actors in leading roles in the show, only one has performed at the Raven Performing Arts Theater. The outstanding cast is fresh and new to Healdsburg theater-goers.
“The voices are superb,” said Gellura. “Even if you are not a Broadway buff, you are going to know the score. That’s what happens with music that’s 53 years old.
“David R. Wright is the set designer,” said Gellura. “He has made the 17 set changes during this play possible.
“It’s very ambitious,” Gellura said. “I wouldn’t hesitate to bring the whole family to see the play. Though it is burlesque, children won’t see more than they would at the beach.
“It’s music for the whole family,” he said.
(Author's note: the playbill and website say "not recommended for children, sexual theme.")
Director Joe Gellura, musical director Les Pfutzenreuter, choreographer Tony Gianchetta, production manager Beneicka Brown, and stage manager is Sylvia Jones.
Cameraman Scott Roberts has recorded the production starting with auditions through costume fittings and performances and will produce a documentary video of this musical.
Performances will be held June 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, 30 and July 1, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 15. Showtimes Friday-Saturday 8 p.m. (doors open at 7:30 p.m.), Sunday 2 p.m. (doors open at 1:30 p.m.)
General: $26/advance, $30/door
Seniors (60+), Students (with ID): $20/advance, $25/door
Value night: Thursday, June 28, performance 8 p.m., all tickets $15
The Raven Performing Arts Theater will close for three weeks in September to make a permanent backstage wing.