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Gypsy – Royal Exchange Theatre

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Ria Jones is sensational as part of a dazzling production that is set to entertain Manchester this winter.

GYPSY is the 1959 musical loosely based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee – a famous striptease artist with music from Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents. The story revolves around her mother – who in this production is exceptionally played by a true star, Ria Jones, forcing her daughters to pursue her own ambition through Vaudeville (a musical farce form of entertainment popular up until the 1930’s).

Jones is a class act – from the first moments of this three hour spectacle. Her character is wonderfully written, so complexed – and she delivers every quip, command and emotion so perfectly that she holds the audience in her hand from start to finish. There are several moments, including the climax of act two where her solos bring the house down.

A large cast deliver this masterpiece, including in the early stages a talented young cast who open the production very professionally, with a very clever step forward in time to their older characters – one of many stunning devices throughout the show from Director Jo Davies.

The story itself is an entertaining one but also provides several uncomfortable moments as a pushy mother becomes such a toxic character to all those around her. Her obsession with her daughter’s success is her downfall and this portrayal is particularly impressive.

Melissa James plays Louise, our lead who becomes a star through striptease. She plays a challenging role impeccably.

A partial proscenium arch sits over the set, which is moved around the stage, making for an effective theatre setting. The fact that it is partly missing on one side is intelligent design but also sympathetic of the storyline. This sits over a revolve which is used effectively throughout, meanwhile other parts of the set are moved on quickly by cast, and used effectively. Smart work by Francis O’Connor.

The depth of the production as a whole is outstanding, hilarious moments give way to moments of raw suffering and the sexy aspect of the showgirls performance is in direct contrast to the uncomfortable moments where Louise first considers becoming a burlesque act. Reprieve from the gloom is sprinkled throughout, including a fabulously entertaining scene with the other burlesque artists during act 2.

A wonderful score accompanies the production, presided over by Joel Fram and his orchestra – sounding excellent throughout.

From the beginning, the characters build so well. High production value keeps you hooked throughout. The spine tingling finale is worth every penny. Somehow 3 hours has gone by – but you barely notice the length of the production. A thoroughly entertaining triumph from a classy producing theatre. You absolutely must enjoy this genuine theatrical spectacle in Manchester this season.

Gypsy plays the Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester until 25th January 2020. To book tickets and to find out more, click here…