SEARCY Center on the Square will kick off its 2019-2020 season with Gypsy: A Musical Fable, directed by Carla Fuller. The show will open Friday and continue through Aug. 11 at 219 W. Arch St.
Gypsy is based on the book by Arthur Laurents, with music by Jule Syne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and suggested by memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. The original production was by David Merrick and Leland Hayward and was originally directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins. The local production is presented by arrangement with Tams-Witmark, a Concord Theatricals Company, www.tamswitmark.com.
“Gypsy is an adult show with some adult themes,” Fuller said. “It will be most appreciated by ages 13 and up.
“It is based on the real life story of Gypsy Rose Lee, the burlesque superstar. That’s the most important part to me as a director … knowing it is based on somebody’s real life. It’s the story of the girl who became Gypsy Rose Lee. … It’s about her and her sister and their mother, Rose.”
Fuller said the cast features approximately 25 people from Searcy and nearby communities.
“Some are kids, some are mature, and there are some in between. We even have a real live dog,” she said, laughing.
“This is the first time I’ve directed a show with a real dog in the cast. This is my 15th show to direct,” said Fuller, who practices family law in Searcy.
“And interestingly enough, I am making this my last one to direct. I have been planning for this to be the last one, so it’s OK. I love directing,” she said, noting that she has also acted in a few of the local productions.
“I love the subtle nuances of directing … the little tiny details that allow the actor to convey the story … to show the audience that it’s more than just a story … a stage and props,” she said. “It’s the actors’ facial expressions, their emotions, that make the story come alive.”
Fuller said the cast “is amazing.”
“We have a whole lot of veterans and a few new people,” she said.
“We opened Center on the Square in 1999,” said Fuller, who is a member and past chairman of the board of directors. “We became a nonprofit in 2004, and I’ve been involved since then … served as the first board chairman. We moved to this location in 2012.”
A native of Oklahoma, Fuller said she came to Searcy in 1982 to attend Harding University. She graduated in 1986 with a degree in English and attended the University of Arkansas School of Law in Fayetteville, graduating with her law degree in 1989. She returned to Searcy in 1992.
“Searcy is my home,” she said.
The principal characters in Gypsy include the following:
• Montana Wallace plays Rose, the ultimate stage mother who lives her life vicariously through her two daughters, June and Louise.
“Montana has been involved with Center on the Square for some time … since we first offered the KidStage classes in 2000,” Fuller said. “I am so glad to have her back onstage. … She sings and dances … and is a really good actress. She directed Our Town last year.”
• James Horton appears as Herbie, the agent for Rose’s children and Rose’s boyfriend.
“I’ve been trying to get this man in a play for nine years,” Fuller said, laughing. “He was in one once. … He played a dead man. He’s a great singer.”
Horton is senior vice president of data processing at First Security Bank in Searcy.
• Lilly Grace Moore, 7, portrays Baby June, Rose’s younger daughter and her “shining star,” and Kimberly Ham, 10, plays Baby Louise, Rose’s older daughter, who has always played second fiddle to June.
“These two young girls have both been in MainStage productions, as well as KidStage shows,” Fuller said.
“Lilly was in A Christmas Carol in 2017 and in A Miracle on 34th Street in 2018,” Fuller said. “Kimberly most recently appeared in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast JR. in June and in Miracle on 34th Street in 2018.”
• Lauren Smith plays Dainty June (Baby June as a teenager), and Shelby Foster appears as Louise (Baby Louise as a teenager, who grows up to be Gypsy Rose Lee).
“These young ladies have theater experience, too,” Fuller said.
“Lauren appeared in the MainStage production of The Drowsy Chaperone,” Fuller said.
“Shelby recently graduated from White County Central High School,” Fuller said. “She is new to Center on the Square but was Peter Pan in White County Central’s spring production of Peter Pan. Shelby is enrolled at the University of Memphis and is majoring in theater.”
• Dillan McGlothlin plays Tulsa, the singer and dancer who ends up marrying Dainty June.
“This is the second show he has done with us,” Fuller said. “Dillan was previously in Our Town. Since then, he has grown into a handsome kid who can sing and dance and act.”
Fuller said a trio of veteran actors are sure to be the “showstopper” in the musical.
“They play washed-up burlesque dancers known as the Gimmick Girls,” Fuller said, laughing.
The Gimmick Girls are as follows:
• Becky Boaz will appear as Tessie Tura, once a ballerina and now a burlesque dancer who shares her dressing room with Louise. Boaz teaches apparel merchandising at Harding University.
• Sally Paine will appear as Mazeppa, a burlesque dancer who dresses as a gladiator and plays trumpet. Paine is executive director at the Sunshine School in Searcy.
• Cassie Bennett will play Miss Electra, a burlesque dancer whose costume is wired with lights. Bennett is an administrative assistant in the theater department at Harding University.
Other members of the cast include the following:
• Allan Smith plays Uncle Jocko, vaudeville master of ceremonies.
• Jason Parks portrays Georgie, Jocko’s assistant.
• Audrey Hughes plays the balloon girl, McKinnon Streit is the clarinet boy, Christian Baker portrays the strongman, and Jaxton Breckenridge plays the tux tapper, all auditioning children.
• Savannah Brown, Tiffany Hathorn, Mallory Jones and Alisa Kindsfater play stage mothers.
• Chew-Bacca Brown (a real dog) is Chowsie the dog.
• Jon Bucher plays Pop, Rose’s father.
• Dillan McGlothlin portrays the driver of a touring car.
• Jaxton Breckenridge plays the driver’s son.
• McKinnon Streit and Christian Baker appear as Boy Scouts seen along the roadside and kidnapped by Rose to be put in her vaudeville troupe.
• Audrey Hughes plays an urchin, a roadside kid who tap-dances and is kidnapped by Rose for her vaudeville troupe.
• Josh Hardin portrays Mr. Weber, a theater manager in Los Angeles.
• Jaxton Breckenridge, Audrey Hughes and McKinnon Streit play members of the Dancing Newsboys ensemble.
• Jason Parks is Yonkers, Amanda Rice is L.A., and Alisa Kindsfater is Angie, all members of Rose’s vaudeville troupe.
• Jon Bucher plays Mr. Kringelein, the manager of a hotel.
• Josh Hardin portrays Mr. Goldstone, a booking agent for the Orpheum Theater Circuit.
• Tiffany Hathorn plays Miss Cratchitt, the secretary at Grantziner’s Palace.
• Bella Anderson appears as Agnes, Savannah Brown as Delores, Mallory Jones as Marjorie May, Alisa Kindsfater as Thelma and Amanda Rice as Gail, all members of the Hollywood Blondes singing and dancing ensemble.
• Josh Hardin portrays Pastey, a stage manager in Wichita; and Phil, Louise’s press agent.
• Amanda Rice plays Renee, Louise’s maid.
• Jon Bucher appears as M. Bourgeron-Cochon, a French photographer.
Members of the crew include Amy Smith, assistant director; Susan Bucher, music director; Seth Brown, lighting, sounds and media design; Colt Cannon, rigger; Becca Collins, light-board operator; Natalie Randolph, sound- and media-board operator; Doug Yaeger, set construction; Doug Yaeger, Ruth Banta, Casey Hensley, Rachel Hensley, Allan Smith, J. Paul Speice and Jack Steward, blackout set ninjas; Fuller and Boaz, costumes; and Fuller and Wallace, choreography.
Show times for Gypsy are at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and again Aug. 2-3 and Aug. 9-10; and at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 11. The meal will be served one hour prior to the show.
Fuller said the dinner theater will feature meals by several local caterers. Savory Catering by Belinda LaForce will serve garlic roasted chicken, bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin, roasted bay potatoes, sweet green beans, rolls, salad and dessert on Friday and Saturday. Marco’s Pizza Buffet will be available Aug. 2; a Burrito Day Buffet will be offered Aug. 3; and Glenn’s Smokehouse will cater the meal Aug. 9-11.
Tickets are $35 for adults with a meal and $18 for adults for the show only; and $33.50 for senior citizens 55 and older, students and members of the military with the meal, and $16.50 for the show only. Tickets may be purchased online at centeronthesquare.org or by calling (501) 368-0111.
The remaining 2019-2020 season at Center on the Square will include Bad Seed, Sept. 24-28 and Oct. 4-13; The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, Dec. 12-22; On Golden Pond, Jan. 31 and Feb. 1-16; A Bad Year for Tomatoes, April 10-26; and The Hallelujah Girls, May 14-24.