By ANGIE FIELD
Get ready Northwest Illinois! It's going to be an entertaining summer! TLP's 2016 season started off with a bang on Thursday, June 2, with an impressive rendition of "Gypsy."
TV and Broadway star Saundra Santiago performs as a powerful and robust Mama Rose who had the audience thoroughly entertained on opening night. Santiago's career actually began at TLP in the early 80's, and it is a real thrill to see her back in the area.
Santiago's long list of impressive credits includes TV's "The Sopranos," "Miami Vice," "Guiding Light," "One Life to Live," and numerous Broadway and Off Broadway roles, including a spot opposite Kevin Bacon in, "Spike Heels."
Santiago's interpretation of Mama Rose is commandingly moving, and her booming powerhouse voice is spectacular! Mama Rose is a character that believes she is absolutely correct in everything she sets her heart and mind to. She is the epitome of the strong, goal-driven woman. As Mama Rose decides to take her two young daughters and leave home to make them stars, all of the other characters absolutely must follow her lead. Santiago seamlessly takes charge of the challenging role and owns it from the start.
Caroline Kasay and Olivia Kaufmann are terrific in their roles as Dainty June (Mama Rose's favorite) and the quiet and often overlooked Louise, who later blossoms into the beautiful Gypsy Rose Lee.
Kasay displays just the right amount of funny and sassy to keep things lively. Her singing and dancing ability complement her already great acting aptitude making her really fun to watch.
Kaufmann adds a sweet sensitivity to the musical with her ability to bring out the deeper feelings of Louise. Her moving rendition of, "Little Lamb" had the audience sympathizing with the sweet young girl and hoping for her to succeed in getting Mama Rose's attention.
Providing the perfect balance to Rose's domineering presence is tender love interest Herbie, played fantastically by TLP guest performer John Boss. Boss and Santiago easily blend into the perfect combination singing and performing many heart touching moments together.
Young Avery Findlay of Savanna, playing Baby June, and Nikki Honchell of Mount Carroll, playing Young Louise, are little stars in the making. What wonderful talent being presented by these young ladies! They are a delight to watch. I have no doubt that their acting careers are just beginning and we will be seeing a lot more from these two as they grow.
Local youth Myah Ackeberg, Cora Dittmar, Laiken Haas and Avery Moran also bring fun energy to the first act, singing, dancing and smiling like the pros.
"Gypsy" is packed with more than a few show stoppers including an incredible tap line performed by the young men in Mama Rose's performing group. TLP company members Liam Johnson, Matthew Salvatore, Luke Stewart and Tyler Klingbiel are exemplary performers. I'm sure the audience left looking forward to seeing more from them this summer. Johnson later performs an incredible do-not-miss song and dance number with, "All I Need Is The Girl." TLP's "Gypsy" is choreographed by Zachary Gray.
Burlesque house strippers Mazeppa, Electra and Tessie are hilariously played by Annalise Griswold, Shayla Brielle G. and Elya Faye Bottiger. What a hoot! These girls are terrifically talented singers who work well together and get the entire audience laughing within seconds of taking the stage.
No subtlety about it, lighting effects in this show are just cool! The strobe effect that transitions the traveling performing group from young children into young adults is simply awesome. In charge of lights for this performance is designer Riley Wood.
Getting in the act, Dan Danielowski, executive director of the TLP, introduces himself as a great stage presence during this show, putting a face with the relatively new name at TLP.
Fun, lively and well-known music is a driving force behind "Gypsy," and it is very well performed by TLP orchestra members who are on stage behind a mesh curtain during much of the performance.
Orchestra members include Andrew Milliken, Korey Steil, Joe Stiel, Cameron Rockwell, Emily Bressler, Denise Deter, Ben Logan, Sarah Curtis and Joe Titus. Hats off to those standout reed players Bressler and Deter on those incredibly difficult runs that were spot on every time.
TLP Artistic Director James Beaudry directs, "Gypsy," so ticket buyers can be sure they are in for a treat. Beaudry has a strong reputation for delivering.
After viewing the opening night performance, this reviewer's recommendation is definitely to: Let Them Entertain You, and You'll Have a Real Good Time, Yes Sir!
"Gypsy" plays through Sunday, June 12. Timber Lake Playhouse is located at 8215 Black Oak Rd., Mount Carroll.
Tickets can be purchased online at www.timberlakeplayhouse.org or by calling the box office at 815-244-2035.
This season's lineup includes, "Having Our Say - The Dalany Sisters' First 100 Years," "Rock of Ages," "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum," "Titanic," and Gaslight."