‘Gypsy’ brings community together through theater

Herbie, performed by Monte Dibben, reassures June, performed by Gabby Van Sickle, and Louise, performed by Miranda Klugesherz, their mother would not abandon June to solidify her spot in a performance during a performance of Gypsy at The Columbian Theater in Wamego, Kansas on June 11, 2017. (Jakki Forester | The Collegian)

“Gypsy,” a musical about 1920s Vaudeville and burlesque shows, took place at The Columbian Theater in Wamego, June 10 at 7:30 p.m.

This play is centered on Rose, a strict mother of two, performed by Manhattan High School theater teacher Linda Haynes Uthoff. Rose dreamed of making her daughters Louise, performed by Miranda Klugesherz, and June, performed by Gabby Van Sickle, into successful actresses in Vaudeville. After June cannot bear the control of her mother anymore, she runs away.

After June runs away, Rose switches her focus to Louise and forces her to be a stripper after Vaudeville dies out. Eventually, Louise becomes the most successful stripper of the time, under the new name “Gypsy Rose Lee.”

“The first part [of the play] built the foundation; the second part is just marvelous—you know it brought joy,” Nina Perry, a volunteer staff member at The Columbian Theater and Wamego resident, said. “The bonding of the children and the mom at the end is where they realize they are family. The love—it permeates.”

Elaine Tucker, Manhattan resident and mother of Sarah McKay Tucker, who performed as baby Louise, said her favorite part of the play was when her daughter performed with Klugesherz as the cow. The cow character was used as a new act in the play to draw fresh audiences when Vaudeville was dying out.

In addition to the performers on the stage, six people played live instruments during the performance.

“I enjoy the music a lot, and the acting is a really good storyline,” Christy McKissick, junior in music performance and education and saxophone, clarinet and oboe pit musician for Gypsy, said. “I really love how animated the actors get. And I love how we fill up each other’s energy.”

Klugesherz, who is a graduate student in communication studies, said the teamwork during the production was key, especially when she had to coordinate with those working backstage. She said there were at least five people who helped her change outfits during the play.

“If one person wasn’t there, I wouldn’t be able to be onstage on time,” Klugesherz said.

Klugesherz said the play was also a challenge for her.

“It has been scary at first,” Klugesherz said. “When I heard the word ‘stripper,’ I knew that was going to require something I’d never done before or even considered before.”

Klugesherz said as she continued rehearsals, she became more passionate about the play.

“I love that it is based on a true story,” Klugesherz said. “I love how true to life and shows the growth of the human beings. [Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee] goes from a very shy, reserved individual facing all of these challenges with her parents. Then she finds her passion and her calling. She makes herself be who she wants to be.”

For those interested in seeing Gypsy, the remaining show times are June 18, 19, 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. and June 18 and 25 at 2 p.m. Regular tickets are $15 for students and children, $20 for adults, and premium seats are $25 for children and students and $30 for adults.

“The thing I like most about this show is that you take a glimpse at what theater was like back in the 1920s and the 1930s in the United States where people would have to travel on trains or cars from one theater to the next,” Uthoff said. “This theater, which was built in 1893…the people came through on the train and got off and came in to perform here. It is kind of fun to do the same sort of show in the same theater where other performances came through and performed.”