Henry Players launching new season with “Gypsy”

By Jason A. Smith Times Correspondent

A popular musical about one family’s struggle to make it in show business is coming to Henry County.

Henry Players cast members of “Gypsy” rehearse the performance which will open September 15. Special photo

The Henry Players will kick off their 26th season by presenting “Gypsy,” Sept. 15-17 and Sept. 22-24 at 7:30 p.m., and Sept. 18 and 25 at 2:30 p.m. Performances will be at the Hood Street Art Center, 136 Hood Street in McDonough.

Tickets are $18 for adults and $15 for students and seniors.

“Gypsy” recounts the memoirs of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee and the relationship she shares with her mother, Rose. Director Cindy Battles said she had to do a lot of research to make the Players’ rendition stand out from the rest.

The result, she said, was a production with characters who resonate with the audience.

“Whether you like them or not -- especially Rose -- you find yourself rooting for them,” Battles explained. “You respect them and admire them, sometimes despite yourself.”

Battles said elements of the production come together to give it a “deceptive” appeal.

“You can listen to the music -- and there is so much belting, it’s great! -- and watch the choreography and the talent and be thoroughly entertained, and that can be your evening,” she said. “But then, you also find yourself thinking deeper about the characters and how they love each other, use each other -- what we do to survive or get the things we long for -- and it makes you look at yourself.”

“Gypsy” features a 27-member cast, including eight performers who will take the stage for the first time. Battles is proud of their efforts -- particularly Sophie Decker and Laken Morris.

“The chemistry is amazing,” said Battles. “I knew that Sophie and Laken were going to be perfect together from the first, and I was right.”

Shelia Gatlin will depict Rose in the play. Gatlin said she is “beyond excited” about her latest opportunity on the stage, and her first lead role.

“It’s such a big role, and Rose has a huge personality,” said Gatlin. “She has a big voice. Her personality demands that she’s the center of everything.”

Gatlin hopes audiences will be able to escape reality while reveling in story of “Gypsy.”

“With any play or musical we put on stage, we just want to take you somewhere else for a little while,” said Gatlin. “We want you to get to know our characters and feel what we’re feeling. We want to share it with you.”

Laken Morris will portray Louise, the character based on Gypsy Rose Lee. Morris didn’t know much about the play until recently, but said she is “ecstatic” about being in it.

“You see the struggle of the all-American mother wanting the show business life for her daughters, but honestly, living vicariously through them,” explained Morris. “She wants that lifestyle and disregards what her daughters want, and you see that throughout the show.”

Morris said conveying her character’s transformation from “cute little mousy Louise,” to a “strong, confident burlesque queen” was a challenge. Still, it was her favorite part of the character’s story because she could relate to it.

“I understand her because that was me when I was little,” said Morris. “I was a very shy, mousy, little girl that grew up under my siblings’ spotlight with their talents in all things sports, which I didn’t mind. I was proud of them. I just didn’t know what I could do or what my ‘gimmick,’ so to say, was going to be yet!”

Sophie Decker will portray Louise’s sister, June, in her return to the Henry Players after obtaining a bachelor’s degree in musical theater. Decker was “overjoyed” to land a role in “Gypsy,” work with the Players’ cast and crew and learn about her newest character.

“I’ve been away from the stage for a little while, and to be able to get my feet wet with such an incredible show is a blessing,” she said. “Vaudeville was an era that will never be forgotten, and for good reason.”

“Gypsy” is a PG-13 show and may not be suitable for younger audiences. Tickets are available online at www.henryplayers.com, at the Hood Street Art Gallery and Damon's Design Team, by phone at 770-892-9906 or at the door.