Connecticut Repertory Theatre’s multi-racial production of the Stephen Sondheim, Jule Styne and Arthur Laurents musical Gypsy, with award-winning actress Leslie Uggams starring as Rose, officially opens July 11 following previews that began July 10.
Press notes state that no African-American actress had ever starred as Rose in an Equity production of Gypsy with a mixed-race cast.
“We weren’t necessarily looking for an actress of color but rather an incredible talent to play this incredibly challenging role,” director Vincent J. Cardinal said in a previous statement. “The actor needed to be able to sing and act brilliantly – this is the King Lear of musical theatre. When we found Leslie Uggams, we were thrilled and honored to have such a legendary talent in this legendary role.”
Laurents had spoken with Uggams about the possibility of leading the national tour of the Sam Mendes revival of Gypsy that starred Bernadette Peters on Broadway.
“I was stunned,” Uggams said in a statement regarding the offer. “I’d always wanted to play Rose but assumed that I’d never be considered because she was based on a real person. That conversation with Arthur got me thinking. If Rose’s creator didn’t have a problem with an African American actress playing her, then why should I? When this opportunity with CT Rep came about, I jumped at it!”
“Gypsy is based on the memoirs of the famous striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee. The musical tells the story of Rose, the ultimate stage mother, and her dream to raise her daughters Louise and June to become stars on the vaudeville circuit and ultimately the legitimate stage,” press notes state. “Through their success Rose will gain fulfillment for her own failed venture into show business. In real life, Louise became Gypsy Rose Lee and Baby June, movie star June Havoc. Mama Rose has become arguably the greatest female role in musical theatre due to its emotion, complexity and powerful songs.”
The cast also includes Michael James Leslie (The Wiz, Little Shop of Horrors) as Pop, Scott Ripley as Herbie, Alanna Saunders (A Chorus Line) as June, Amandina Altomare (A Chorus Line, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum) as Louise, Luke Hamilton as Tulsa, Ariana Shore as Tessie Tura, Dale AJ Rose as Mr. Goldstone/Cigar and Steve Hayes as Uncle Jocko/Kringelien.
The production continues through July 20.
Uggams won a Tony Award for her Broadway debut in Hallelujah, Baby! and has also appeared on Broadway in On Golden Pond, Thoroughly Modern Millie, King Hedley II, Anything Goes, Jerry’s Girls, Blues in the Night and Her First Roman. Uggams earned an Emmy for her work on television’s “Fantasy” and appeared as Kizzy Reynolds in the award-winning miniseries “Roots.”
Tickets and additional information are available by calling (860) 486-2113 or visiting crt.uconn.edu.