Claire Olszewski has discovered that out-of-control “stage parents” have been around for a long time. Starring in the title role in the Bullis School’s production of “Gypsy,” Olszewski is excited to perform in a musical that with such a powerful story line.
“Gypsy” has a message “for all the psycho stage moms who force their kids on stage before they should be,” said Olszewski. “It’s pretty much about a mom who lives through her two girls, one more than the other.”
The play is based on the biography of Gypsy Rose Lee, a vaudeville entertainer who became a stripper late in Depression-era America, prodded by her overbearing mother Rose.
“The show is about the development of a stage mother trying to get her daughter an act,” said junior Tracy Wertheimer, who manages set design and lighting. “They end up at a burlesque house because they can’t find another performer.”
“I love it,” said senior Maire O’Neill about playing Rose, the overbearing mother in question. “You could either play her with a lot of shame, or pretty oblivious. … I like to play her as oblivious until the end.”
The musical score is as powerful as the plot, Olszewski said. “Their characters are so completely worked up that there’s nothing left to do but sing and dance,” said Olszewski. “The songs are just driven from emotion.”
Freshman Katie Varga plays a stripper in “Gypsy,” but said the news went over OK at home. “My parents thought it was funny, and they thought it was good that I got a role and got lines,” she said. Varga adds, though, that Bullis is not publicizing the show at the lower school.
“There are a lot of heavy moments in the end,” Olszewski said. “It’s not really a show that we’re promoting to younger kids, because it definitely has dark elements and adult themes.”
YOUNGER THEATERGOERS need not despair, said Molly O’Connell. She’s starring as Gertrude McFuzz in Holy Child’s performance of “Seussical,” a musical featuring characters from Dr. Seuss that just became available for schools to perform last year.
“It’s simple, yet it’s not — and all ages can come, so bring your parents or your children,” O’Connell said.
Seuss superstars like the Cat in the Hat star alongside Mayzie La Bird (Elizabeth Duda) and the Sour Kangaroo (Ali Kanne). Lyrics are a fusion of Dr. Seuss’ own writing and Lynn Ahrens.
The Cat in the Hat always has a surprise up his sleeve, and in that role, senior Kristina Slekys was inspired to work on her improvisation skills. “You work with someone who’s witty, and just throw things at them,” Slekys said. “It’s kind of a trial and error process.”
Other actors are challenged in different ways. Senior Caitlin McCarthy, who plays JoJo, said “I’m a girl and I have to play a boy.”
“I’m a boy and I have to play an elephant,” added Tim Demaree, a junior at The Heights who plays Horton (of “Hears a Who” fame). He’s carrying on a tradition of Heights students performing in Holy Child plays.
“Seussical” is staged on a bright, cartoon-like set designed by juniors Eames Armstrong and Christina Grolman. “The stage is very much an illustration — it looks like a drawing,” said O’Connell.
Like Dr. Seuss’ books, the story is enjoyable for children on the surface level, even as there are themes about war, love and individuality. “It’s as deep as you want it to be,” said Demaree.