To see Parker Leas perform with grace and beauty as Clara in Midwest Regional Ballet's "The Nutcracker," one would never guess she'd be cast in "Gypsy" as Baby Louise, the slightly awkward sister of the talented Baby June, who is always in the limelight.
The Joplin eighth grader says performing awkwardly in this role was inspired by her own awkwardness off the stage: "At home and in gym, I'm actually kind of clumsy," she said.
Parker, who is one of Kaye Lewis' junior company dancers with Midwest Regional Ballet, has performed in "Nightmare Before Christmas," "Alice in Steampunk Wonderland," and "Cats," and in PCT was a munchkin and flying monkey in "The Wizard of Oz." She was inspired to try out for "Gypsy" after seeing it a few years ago at Joplin Little Theatre.
Her mother, Staci, drives her to Pittsburg from Joplin each night for rehearsals and performances, which Parker says she appreciates "very much."
"I just love being on stage," she said.
Don't miss Parker on stage as Baby Louise in Gypsy July 28-31; tickets are on sale now at www.memorialauditorium.org and at the box office at 503 N. Pine, 620-231-7827.
When a show needs Dust Bowl-era eating utensils, or vintage suitcases, or a live lamb (!!), directors know to look no further than Mimi Little, PCT's prop lady since 1991. Her first show? "Gypsy," the first time around. Her son, Linden, was 10 and had been cast as a newsboy in Baby June's vaudeville act.
"I was a stage mom and they put me to work, as often happens," Mimi said. "I volunteered to help paint backdrops at rehearsals, since I was there anyway. The director, Bob Tindel, needed the help. When I came back the next day, there were four more for me to work on. I guess that was when I was unofficially hired."
Hired she may have been, but her work for PCT for the past 25 years has been as a volunteer because she has a passion for the arts and a love for the people.
"We don't have a large family — Linden is an only child — and PCT has become our family," she said. "The ladies of PCT helped raise Linden."
So much so that PCT cast and crew of all ages call her not Mimi, but Mama Little. She doesn't like the spotlight — we had to twist her arm to pose for a photo — and has been on stage herself just once, in an emergency.
"It was in 'Our Town,' and a person got sick so I had to fill in at the last minute," she said. "But I really don't like the limelight at all. I prefer to be behind the scenes — it wouldn't be a show without the crew."
Her favorite show to find props for: "Evita" in 2015, she thinks.
"I like period pieces, because I get to use antiques," said Mimi, who scours attics, basements, thrift shops and garage sales — and her own home — for just the right props.
The oddest thing she's had to find as a prop?
"A G-string for a funny moment in this show, 'Gypsy', " she laughed.
And as for that little boy she brought to the 1991 "Gypsy" to perform as a 10-year-old: He's now directing this year's production.
Come see Mama Little's handiwork for yourself! “Gypsy" runs July 28-31; tickets are on sale now at www.memorialauditorium.org and at the box office at 503 N. Pine, 620-231-7827.
Tonight was the first night for the full 17-member pit orchestra to meet at Memorial for rehearsal, and wow! If you come see Gypsy for no other reason than to hear these musicians play the toe-tapping tunes by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim, that’s reason enough.
The musical contains many songs that became popular standards, including "Everything's Coming up Roses,” "Together (Wherever We Go)," "Small World," "Some People," "Let Me Entertain You," "All I Need Is the Girl," and "Rose's Turn." It is frequently considered one of the crowning achievements of the mid-20th century's conventional musical theatre art form, often called the "book musical."
Our pit orchestra is directed by Megan Gabehart, who has served as music director for numerous PCT shows. It's filled with veteran performers who double — and triple and quadruple — up on instruments.
Recent Pittsburg High School graduate Jack Warring handles a full section of auxiliary percussion, from xylophone to timpani. Musicians in the reed section transition from alto sax to clarinet to flute to piccolo.
The orchestra also includes musicians who are coming in from a distance to perform: Levi Randolphe drives from Joplin. AJ Beu drives from Kansas City.
It includes a recently married couple: Chris and Amanda Goddard. And seven music teachers: Megan (Labette County), Andrea Dinkel (Galena), Kelsey DeVore (Jasper, Mo.), Amanda Goddard (Labette County), Daniel Warlop (Frontenac), Danica Gibson (Southeast), and Levi Randolphe (Joplin).
It includes two Pittsburg State students: Jacob Caffrey and Justin Crossman.
And it includes one of Megan’s former students at Pittsburg High, Sam Ortiz, now a music student at Pittsburg State.
Rounding it out are Lucas Warford, Oliver Smith, Matthew Schmitt, and Megan’s mother, Barbara York, a noted composer in her own right.
Gypsy has been referred to as the greatest American musical by numerous critics and writers, among them Ben Brantley ("what may be the greatest of all American musicals..."). Theater critic Clive Barnes wrote that"'Gypsy' is one of the best of musicals..." We can't help but think that's in large part because of the music.
Come hear it for yourself! “Gypsy" runs July 28-31; tickets are on sale now at www.memorialauditorium.org and at the box office at 503 N. Pine, 620-231-7827.
Gypsy Music Director Megan Gabehart and her children, Spencer and Isabel.
Meet Sissy, a half poodle/half schnauzer that has a role in "Gypsy." At just shy of 2 years old, this is her first attempt at show business, and she has earned two thumbs up from her human cast members.
Her owner, Krista Hightower, is a theater major who started at Pittsburg State University last year and will be a senior this fall. Best known as Templeton in last year's Pitt State production of "Charlotte's Web," and Slender in "Merry Wives of Windsor," Krista portrays a show girl in "Gypsy."
Sissy, whose stage name in "Gypsy" is "Chow Mein," follows in the paw-steps of several iconic dogs on the PCT stage, including "Toto" in 2013's "Wizard of Oz," and "Sandy" in 2014's "Annie."
Don't miss seeing Sissy on stage in "Gypsy" July 28-31; tickets are on sale now at www.memorialauditorium.org and at the box office at 503 N. Pine, 620-231-7827.
This show has special significance to two mother-daughter pairs and director Linden Little.
In PCT's 1991 production of Gypsy, Linden was 10 and played the role of a newsboy. Sarah Hall (far left) and Jenna Spencer (far right) were 10 years old, and also were in the cast as a newsboy and a mime in Uncle Jocko's vaudeville act, respectively.
In this year's show, Sarah's daughter, Bella, who soon will turn 10, is playing a newsboy like her mom, and Jenna's daughter, Alora, 14, is playing a farm boy.
"It's cool to be in the same show my mom was in," Alora said. Bella, who has grown up listening to the Gypsy soundtrack, agreed.
And their moms are still involved: Sarah, a stay-at-home mom, is in the cast again, this time playing Miss Crachitt. And Jenna, who is an artist and works at Colton's Steak House, is helping to paint the set.
"It definitely brings back memories," Sarah said. "The dance the newsboys do is still the same — the 'chugs' they do never change, from production to production. It's a different set, a different director, but it's still Gypsy."
Jenna said she and Sarah, who both graduated from Pittsburg High School in 1998 (Little graduated in 1999), have loved the show since they were in it and frequently belt out lyrics to the songs. They loved it so much, in fact, that they used the last spoken scene of the show — a dramatic and emotional climax between Mama Rose and her daughter, Gypsy Rose Lee — as a duet in forensics competition at PHS.
Don't miss this special production of "Gypsy" July 28-31; tickets are on sale now at www.memorialauditorium.org and at the box office at 503 N. Pine, 620-231-7827.