Gypsy at Watford Palace Theatre****

Joanne Goddard shines as Gypsy Rose Lee

Fenella Lee excels as Momma Rose

First published in What's On Borehamwood Times: Photograph of the Author by

Gypsy is a peach of a musical; on the one-hand its a gut-wrenching tale of one woman's ruthless determination to shove her daughters into the limelight and on the other it's a moving family saga of love and forgiveness.

It has the big numbers - Let Me Entertain You, Mr Goldstone and Everything's Coming Up Roses and as backbone, the true story of burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee, her actress sister June Havoc and their overbearing mother, Momma Rose.

Ethel Merman and Bette Midler have played Rose and now Barbra Streisand has her sights on the role but I would challenge anyone to wring forth such a mesmerising performance as Fenella Lee does in Watford Operatic Society's sparkling production.

Granted Rose was pushy and abusive but Fenella teases out Rose's wit and infectious enthusiasm - every little movement and inflection she makes is spot on.

It might be hard for anyone else to hold a candle to Fenella's performance but director Alan Cox has very cleverly matched his cast and every one is more than capable of holding their own under the spotlight.

In the first half, the highly accomplished Izzy Sadler brings a knowing intelligence and amused irony to the cutesy high-stepping child star Baby June. In a brilliantly executed scene change Emma Harold then takes over as her grown up version, Dainty June.

While Julie Lilley, Nicky Chrysaphes and most especially Kerry Lee deserve special mention for their riotous striptease act with superb accompaniment from the live orchestra.

Then, finally Joanne Goddard lets fly with her voice and allure as Louise, the put-upon second choice daughter, finally emerges from her chrysalis to become the burlesque butterfly Gypsy Rose Lee.

The only glitch in the whole, well-oiled machine was a technical difficulty for a projection that the show did not really need and some of the changeovers could have been tightened up and less elaborate.

That said, Watford Operatic's Gypsy is a rollicking good romp and a glittering showcase for our extremely able local talent.

Runs until May 19 at Watford Palace Theatre. Details: 01923 225671.

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