Everything’s Coming Up Roses
Gypsy, a musical written in 1959, loosely based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, a famous striptease artist from the time. The story focuses on her mother, Rose, who dreams of her two daughters performing onstage and becoming stars Momma Rose, fighting for her daughters’ success…while secretly yearning for her own.. The character of Louise is based on Gypsy Rose, and the character of June is based on Lee’s sister. When June runs off with a boy, Momma Rose is left with the less talented daughter and they all slowly sink into oblivion – witcha Witchataw, Kanas to be exact. It’s there that the awkward teenager Baby Loise transforms into the amazing Gypsy Rose Lee. It is a truly complex plot and even more complex set of characters. The musical contains many popular songs, including “Everything’s Coming up Roses,” “Together (Wherever We Go),” “Small World,” “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” “Let Me Entertain You,” “All I Need Is the Girl”…
The main character Momma Rose, played by the famous stage performer BETH LEAVEL, created a masterful performance of the monstrous tunnel vision stage mother. During the show, you come to hate and love her, and in the end, Gypsy Rose Lee and her mother come to terms agreeing to accept each other as they are. A typical American story if you ask me.
Luckily, I saw it twice. Why twice? Well, I knew the actor who played the Baby Loise, Elise Edwards. So how does a 14-year-old from Cape Girardeau in up with a leading role in a musical at the St. Louis Muny? A dedicated stage mom and talent, that’s how.
Elise has quite a resume already. Muny credits include: Fiddler on the Roof (Bielke) and ensemble roles in A Chorus Line, Oklahoma! and Seussical. Along with being cast in the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis’ A Christmas Carol, she has also performed in several productions at the Conservatory of Southeast Missouri. Conservatory of Southeast Missouri credits includes: A Midsummer Night’s Dream(Jacquenetta Snug), Seussical (Jojo), Macbeth (MacDuff’s son and Banquo’s son in), The King and I (Royal Daughter) and Annie (Molly). Elise recently created the role of Cassie in a feature Tom Green and Les Stroud film, Interviewing Monsters (fall 2018 release).
My mom is NOTHING like “Momma Rose”, but I would not have been able to do anything without her help and support. When I was seven years old, she came to me and asked, “Hey, would you be interested in doing a dinner theater show?” I thought about it for a minute and said, “Why not?” as I had always liked singing in front of people at church. When I went there for my first audition, neither my mom or I had any idea of what went into performing in a play or musical. Mom used to be a trauma nurse and my dad is a doctor so none of them had any acting experience. It was all very new to us. I ended up getting the small role and after my first minute on stage, I was hooked on performing.
I just finished up with “Gypsy” and am getting ready to start high school this month. Many of my friends and acquaintances do not understand how hard it is to get on stage at the Muny. They congratulate me and think it’s cool, but they have no idea what me and my mom go through to make it happen. Auditions are held in February. Outside of the fact that we have to drive to St. Louis the day before, the auditions are mentally tough and you cannot allow yourself to get too nervous. The first day is an open call. When you show up, there are hundreds of other boys and girls there also trying out. They teach you a dance routine in a concise period of time and then you are brought up in groups of four to perform the dance in front of a panel of theater professionals. I do my best to dance well and smile big. If you are fortunate to get a callback on the second day, there are fewer kids present. Once again, you are asked to dance and then sing a portion of a theater song of your choice that you came prepared to sing. If there are principal roles available, you can get a possible third callback. If you do as I have had, you go into a room by yourself where the casting director and theater professionals videotape you as you recite your pre-prepared lines and songs. After that, it is up to the director in New York and the Muny if you look, act, and sound right for the part. Waiting for months to see if you get a role is very hard. I learned a long time ago that you have to patient and that just because you don’t get a callback or a part in a show, does not mean that you do not have talent. It’s just that you may not be right for that particular role. My mom taught me that and always helps remind me of that if things should not work out.
My mom is great. She is 100% supportive and sacrifices a lot for me to do Muny shows, get my weekly dance training up in St. Louis, and weekly voice lessons. She is always telling me to relax, do my best, and show my emotions as I tell my story on stage. During “Gypsy”, she would joke with me, saying, “Whatever you do, don’t break the door handle off the antique car!” It really was a very expensive, old car in which most of the cast was not allowed even to touch. On opening night, I was a little nervous because I had to carry a big suitcase, a little dog in my arms, and then open the car door on stage. Mom and I laughed about that and fortunately everything went fine. We like to have good fun together. Being able to act with Beth Leavel, who played my stage mother, was an amazing experience. Her portrayal of “Momma Rose” was brilliant. You don’t get a Tony Award for nothing I guess!! It was crazy watching her night after night with such powerful and perfect performances. So inspiring!
I am confident in what I want to do now. With the help of my mom and supportive family, I am going to try to get involved with as many professional and high school musicals/plays as I can. I then plan on attending a great university with a strong musical theatre program. I want to go to New York after graduation and am determined to eventually perform on Broadway and do more film work. I dream big!