I love it when life imitates art. Four decades ago a legendary Broadway musical of burlesque stripper Gypsy Rose Lee introduced the theatergoing world to Rose, the meddlesome mother of all stage mothers. Four weeks ago, an article on CNN.com christened micromanaging but well-meaning “hyper-involved” and “hovering” moms and dads as “helicopter parents.” But they don’t hold a candle to the matron who set the standard, especially as played by Rebecca Finnegan in Porchlight Music Theatre’s revival of “Gypsy.” Finnegan possesses a fine belting voice that more than adequately handles Jule Styne’s sumptuous score. And it’s impressive to hear her approach Rose’s songs not just as the series of undisputable showstoppers that they are but—along with a punctilious reading of Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics—as deeply felt musical expressions of character psychology worthy of any dialogue in Arthur Laurents’ equally strong book. Also moving is Jess Goodwin in the title role and her portrayal of the untalented, self-conscious daughter displaying glints of haunting self-awareness into her mother’s emotional blackmail. The rest of director L. Walter Stearns’s deeply satisfying production finds a good balance between comedy and pathos and makes this revival a worthy opener to Porchlight’s eleventh season. (Fabrizio O. Almeida)
“Gypsy” plays at the Theatre Building Chicago, 1225 W. Belmont, (773)327-5252,through October 30.