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Gypsy At Capital Rep – Kelsey Crouch Interview

The three strippers, Mazeppa (Hillary Parker), Tessie Tura (LoriAnn Freda), and Electra (Benita Zahn) inform Louise (Kelsey Crouch) that she’s “Gotta Get a Gimmick” if she wants to be successful in Burlesque.
Courtesy of Joe Schuyler

Gypsy: A Musical Fable runs March 14- April 13 at Capital Repertory Theatre. In our recent local theater spotlight we caught up with Kelsey Crouch to talk about her role as Louise and working with local TV favorite Benita Zahn.

Q: Where did you begin your career in theater? 

A: I began performing when I was very young. My siblings and I would put on productions of fairy tales for our parents. I remember one production of Little Red Riding Hood where we became particularly inventive with chairs and blankets to symbolize the wolf’s stomach. We were very committed little storytellers. My parents were actors, so the house was always filled with singing, especially songs from movie musicals. The film of Gypsy with Natalie Wood was a favorite in my household. I performed in the school plays all though middle school and high school, finally receiving my Bachelors of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre from Syracuse University.

Q: To date, what has been your favorite role?

A: I’ve had the opportunity to portray some beautiful and iconic parts. Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, Anne Egerman in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music and Young Phyllis in Sondheim’s Follies with Ann B. Davis and Joan Roberts. But I would have to say my favorite role to date is Gypsy, which is such a great discovery to report! I feel like I’ve made a best friend in this character. She let’s me connect with both a vulnerability and a power that I don’t normally touch upon in my life. When the theatre has our day off on Mondays, I miss her and can’t wait to get back to work the next day!

Q: What is your favorite scene in Gypsy?

A: My favorite scene is Gypsy’s Strip Sequence! The sequence is five different striptease numbers performed consecutively. The audience gets to see Gypsy’s growth from a painfully timid, young woman to an outrageously funny and giving performer who thrives on communication with her audiences—especially when she’s teasing them. What the audience doesn’t get to see is the controlled madness that’s happening backstage between me, my dresser and my costumes. There are hats and gloves and undergarments flying in order to get me dressed and back onstage in time for those velvet curtains to open again. We have only 14 seconds for the last transition to get me into a full sequined gown! Then again, these dresses were built to come off easily…

Q: For someone who’s never been to the show, can you describe why someone would enjoy this performance?

A: Gypsy is first and foremost a musical comedy. Gypsy is a survival story, loosely based on the memoirs of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. It follows a dysfunctional family around the country as they try to hit stardom in Vaudeville during the Great Depression. Every parent can relate to Mama Rose’s desperation to provide for her children and keep them close. Every child can relate to Gypsy’s desire to break free. Broadway vets Mary Callanan (Mama Rose) and Bob Walton (Herbie) deliver stellar performances. And then there are the Burlesque Strippers played by Benita Zahn, Loriann Freda, and Hillary Parker that bring the house down every night. The show is packed with memorable songs like “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”, “Let Me Entertain You” and  ”You Gotta Get a Gimmick.” The majority of the choreography is original from the 1959 Broadway production. This show is fun, beginning to end.

Q: Benita Zahn is a favorite television personality in the Albany Area, how is it working with Benita Zahn on stage in this performance?

A: Benita Zahn has been a gift to work with. She brings so much sunlight to our cast—not to mention one hell of a pep talk a few weeks ago when I was feeling blue. She’s the ultimate professional, of course, but she’s got this mischievous twinkle in her eye that never fails to remind us all of this is play. She always cries, “Break hearts and legs, everybody! Hearts and legs!”

Gypsy: A Musical Fable runs March 14- April 13 at Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 North Pearl Street, Albany. Visit capitalrep.org for tickets and information.

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