Among the many reasons for not missing Perseverance's production of "Gypsy" is that Karen Cross' performance as Mama Rose will be her Juneau swan song. For years her outstanding talents have enriched our local musical and dance scene with creative choreography, inspiring dance direction and stunning costume design. (As I write she is working on choreography and dance with the high school production of "The King and I".)
From time to time she also emerged from backstage obscurity to take center stage with memorable dramatic performances. In Perseverance's production of the early Nazi era "Cabaret," she brought the tough landlady Fraulein Schneider to full comic and tragic life. Her singing and acting as Desiree, the "maturing" super-star actress at the center of Sondheim's "A Little Night Music," gave Juneau Lyric Opera's production much of it's high style.
In playing Mama Rose, Karen wisely avoids playing Ethyl Merman (no one could or should do that!). Under Anita Maynard-Losh's customary sensitive and intelligent direction, she creates her own version of the stage mother from hell. Mama's driving ambition and ruthless tactics were still there, but with Merman's super-charged belting delivery moderated. And in the moving finale "Rose's Turn" you can almost feel sorry for the woman. But Karen adds something else, the performance of a beautifully designed dance routine to accompany the lyrics and yes, demonstrate that she really had more talent than her daughters.
In short, if you haven't seen it, you must. And to Karen, "Thanks for the memories."
George W. Rogers
Juneau Empire ©2015. All Rights Reserved.