In Drury Lane’s “Gypsy,” Another Star is Born

With the White Sox, Cubs and Bears rebuilding, their general managers look to identify burgeoning youth capable of next-level stardom.

Kenny Williams, Jed Hoyer and Phil Emery ought to be discussing talent evaluation strategy with Drury Lane Theatre’s executive team. And they’d best be taking notes.

For its second consecutive show, the Oakbrook regional theater hit a casting home run. Like Jennifer Blood’s fresh take on Maria in this fall’s “Sound of Music,” Andrea Prestinario wows as Louise in the company’s current run of the classic musical “Gypsy.”

Both of these fabulous triple-threats are poised to assume Kristen Chenoweth, Ashley Brown, or Sutton Foster status if their stars align. Then Drury Lane patrons can proudly tell their friends, “I knew her when … ”

Prestinario’s wide-eyed second-sister depiction is so spot-on that her subtle movement into the first act’s spotlight offers the audience a lovely surprise. This occurs in the sparkling duet with sister June (played wonderfully by Andrea Collier), “If Mamma Was Married,” and its immediate follow-up, “All I Need is the Girl,” exquisitely executed by Matthew Crowle as Tulsa. Crowle’s dancing in this number is also showcase-worthy.

As the star of act two, Prestinario morphs from naive to confident. When Mama Rose yells for her to, “Sing out, Louise,” she does. And as she transforms into burlesque queen Gyspy Rose Lee, the audience wishes she wouldn’t stop.

A synopsis of the plot is found here. On a grander scale, the plot traces theater’s history of Vaudeville’s demise in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Director Bill Osetek’s simple sets and manually cranked scrolls on the sides of the stage are subtle nods to this bygone era. But it’s the Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim songbook that illustrates the staying power of this musical theater classic. Patrons at times must resort to stern looks at their neighbors to keep them from humming along.

Klea Blackhurst, as headstrong stage mother archetype Mama Rose, does a near-perfect impression of Ethel Merman playing Mama Rose or Bette Midler playing Ethel Merman playing Mama Rose. It’s appropriate, since Blackhurst is known in New York for her portrayal of Merman (the original Rose).

To be sure, Blackhurst is a talent in her own right, and renditions of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Together Wherever We Go” are particularly memorable in this show.

There really is no weak link in this talented cast, and patrons looking for a first-rate production of a classic best get their tickets now. Parents seeking to expose their children to live theater should know the burlesque element is evident but tame, and can open appropriate conversations about suitable behavior.

Plus, those kids will always be able to say, “I knew Andrea Prestinario when … ”

“Gypsy” runs through April 1 at the Drury Lane Theatre, 100 Drury Lane, Oakbrook Terrace, less than a 1-hour drive from all North Shore suburbs. Parking is free. More information and tickets are available online at drurylaneoakbrook.com or by phone 630-530-0111.