City Theatre returning to stage

Mike Genet
The Examiner USA TODAY NETWORK

David Rogers tries to avoid tearing up a bit as he thinks back to June, when he was part of the “Broadway Under the Stars” outdoor concert put on by City Theatre of Independence. Singing for that was part of the return to live performances amid the pandemic. 

June (right, played by Clara Bay) laments to sister Louise (Danielle Gibbs) about the control their mother Rose has over their lives in a rehearsal scene from City Theatre of Independence’s production of ‘Gypsy,’ which opens this weekend at the Sermon Center.

“It was so good to be able to share that again,” Rogers said. “As a musician, as a theater person … it's how I communicate with the world.” 

Rogers is directing the City Theatre production of the classic musical “Gypsy,” which opens this weekend in the Sermon Center Powerhouse Theatre. While City Theatre hosted its annual Playwright Festival of one-act plays about a month ago, “Gypsy” marks the first full-scale stage production since the pandemic hit 18 months ago. 

“There's a definite excitement,” Rogers said. “It's called the mother all musicals: For one, it's a big show, and there's the mother.” 

“Gypsy” premiered in 1959 and tells the story of a show business mother who pushes her two daughters to be onstage in the 1920s and 1930s vaudeville world – ultimately to the detriment of her family. Beyond the natural difficulties of having children and a dog as part of the show, Rogers notes there are 18 scene changes and more than 100 costumes employed. 

“Nothing about this show is subtle,” Rogers said. “Even the music for its time is some of the most difficult. It took a little bit to get the muscles flexed a bit. You can't just walk through this.” 

Julie McDaniel, who stars as the overbearing mother Rose, has been part of numerous community theater productions. But she acknowledged it wasn't easy to get back into stage mode, particularly for one of Broadway's most iconic roles. 

“It's like starting over again, but I feel very honored to do this part,” McDaniel said. “This show is not done very often because it's difficult. It's a very demanding part, and I just love to belt. Anytime I can get out there and just belt a song, I'm happy.” 

McDaniel, who also is a member of the CTI board of directors, said another part of the excitement is the Powerhouse Theatre remodeling. New seats, which had been in a Blue Springs movie theater, have been installed. 

“We took advantage of that time we had where we couldn't perform and gave it a bit of a facelift,” McDaniel said. 

Showtimes are 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and also Sept. 17-18, as well as 2 p.m. Sunday and Sept. 19. Tickets are $18 for adult CTI season members ($20 for non-members) and $16 for senior and student season members ($18 for non-members). Tickets can be purchased at the door (the Sermon Center is off the corner of Truman and Noland roads) or online at: www.citytheatreofindependence.org. 

“Gypsy” was created by Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Jerome Robbins. The show is directed by David Rogers and choreographers Heather Foose and Sophie Yancey. 

CAST 

Jocko/Herbie: Greg Lane 

Georgie/L.A.: Josh Keen 

Jocko kids/Newsboys: Abryenne Gentry, Max Bay, Finnegan Jones, Jack Bay, Winter Bay 

Stage mothers: Heather Foose, Janet Shelman, Michelle Matherly 

Baby June: Taylor Pierce 

Baby Louise: Evelyn Selby 

Rose: Julie McDaniel 

Chowsie (dog): Moxie Violet 

Pop/Cigar: Ed Leonard 

Mr. Weber/Kringelein: Kenn Marlowe 

Tulsa: Andy Mendoza 

Louise: Danielle Gibbs 

June: Clara Bay 

Yonkers/Mr. Bourgeron-Cochon: Mike O'Brien 

Angie/Pastey/Phil: Nicholas Crawford 

Waitress/Marjorie May/Renee: Isabelle Porter 

Cratchitt/Electra: Janet Shelman 

Toreadorables: Clara Bay, Evelyn Selby 

Agnes: Maddie Philipp 

Tessie Tura: Heather Foose 

Mazeppa: Michelle Matherly