HMHS drama club delves into fame, fortune, family dynamics

‘Gypsy’ provides glimpse into showbiz archetypes.

The pressures of making it in show business are difficult enough to deal with. Add a mother who thinks she’s destined to become famous because she wants   her two children to do the same, and things become more complex and dramatic. 

And so it is with “Gypsy,” a musical — and later a film — loosely based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, and her mother, Rose, the ultimate show business mother. 

Mama Rose is determined that her younger daughter June have a successful career, but after the girl elopes, Mama turns all her attention on her older, less talented daughter, Louise. Louise eventually becomes a famed burlesque stripper.

Haddonfield Memorial High School’s Drama Club will offer three opportunities for the public to indulge in the study of family dynamics beginning April 30, led, as always, by Matt DiDonato and his cast of enthusiastic young thespians. 

Senior Katrina Edwards, a veteran of the stage, perhaps appropriately takes on the role of Mama Rose. Poring over information from the movie, musical soundtracks and Lee’s actual memoirs, Edwards was able to reach an understanding about why Rose behaved as she did. 

One driving force behind the story is the concept of a “stage mother,” which fellow senior Anna Forebaugh came to know about earlier in life.

“I am very grateful that my ‘momager’ is very supportive and nothing like Mama Rose in the show,” Forebaugh noted. “However, having grown up in the competitive dance and community-theater world, I’ve been able to observe many types of stage mothers and the way their pressure impacts their relationship with their children.

Both Forebaugh and Edwards cited their long standing friendship and participation in theatrical productions as keys to striking the right notes regarding the mother-daughter dynamic central to “Gypsy.”

“We’re really lucky in the sense that we’re so comfortable together on stage, so that’s made it a lot easier to create a believable mother-daughter bond,” Edwards stated. “I read a lot about the kind of person Rose was, and how her daughters viewed her as a mom, and I know Anna knows a lot about this, too.

“Having a “stage mother” is a really specific circumstance, but everyone can relate to having a maternal relationship.”

The meta nature of the production — a major artistic undertaking about the personal machinations of those involved in showbiz — provided a unique touchstone for both students to examine how their respective characters relate to each other and the story, and how the actors orient themselves on stage.

Construction of the set reflects that reality, as the crew fashioned a “fake wing”  built so characters can be present on the real stage but also perform “backstage,” on a separate fictional location that exists inside the story. 

The ‘metaness’ is honestly one of my favorite parts about the show. There are multiple scenes and musical numbers where we are ‘on stage’ on our stage,” Edwards explained. 

“We kind of just approached it as our characters being there, to make our story within the production more believable. I think this overlap is a really cool aspect of the show, and audiences are really going to get a kick out of it.” 

Forebaugh added her belief that those who find their own spaces in the creative field, whether working as artists or actors, can relate to the desire for praise and attention. 

“We want the things we create to be noticed and appreciated, but despite a central theme of the musical being show business, many of the characters just want the attention and affection of the people they care about, like their parents, children, or partner,” she said. 

For more information on how to purchase tickets and how to see the show, visit: https://hmhsdrama.com/.