by David Dixon
Since mid-July, a hit production of the famous Broadway musical, “Gypsy,” has been running at the Cygnet Theatre. The 2016 version features 24 artists, which is a big ensemble for the intimate Old Town space. Two of the performers that are heavily used in the opening moments of the show are La Mesa sisters, 10-year-old Gabriella Dimmick and 12-year-old Sophia Dimmick.
The siblings’ involvement in the arts began when they co-starred several years ago in “The Nutcracker” at the San Diego Civic Theatre.
“Afterwards, I wanted to try out theater to see what I thought of it,” Sophia said.
On certain performances, Gabriella plays Baby June, the daughter of the fiercely determined stage mother, Rose (Linda Libby). Baby June is one of the singers of the opening musical number, “May We Entertain You.”
Her favorite songs from composer, Jule Styne, and lyricist, Stephen Sondheim, are ones that happen after the first big number.
“One of the best songs has to be ‘Madame Rose’s Toreadorables,’” Gabriella said. “It’s really hilarious and too funny. Another one I like a lot is ‘Baby June and her Newsboys.’”
Playing the comic relief role of a Balloon Girl competing against Baby June is Sophia Dimmick.
“It’s really fun to have Libby come over and pop the balloons on my costume,” she said. “That always surprises me no matter how many times I’m in the scene.”
Sophia loves her sister’s introductory tune, and she is also a fan of a couple of Rose’s solo melodies.
“‘Mr. Goldstone, I Love You’ is really funny,” she said. “I also really like ‘Rose’s Turn.’ That song makes me cry every single time Libby sings the musical number.”
One of the dark themes that Gabriella and Sophia are touched by is the theme of parents forcing their kids to perform in entertainment. Although neither sister relates to the situations Rose’s daughters go through in the musical, they find Louise (Allison Spratt Pearce) and Dainty June’s (Katie Whalley Banville) stories to be fascinating.
“Parents pushed their kids more in the 1920s,” Sophia said. “Adults were crazy back then trying to get their children to perform.”
“Moms were insane about their kids participating in the arts, even if they were not good,” Gabriella added.
Both ensemble members have only positive things to say about their fictitious mama, Libby.
“She is born for the role of Rose,” Gabriella said. “Libby has that force in her that keeps pushing her on.”
“Murphy interpreted the script differently than I did,” Sophia said. “He really opened up the script and taught me that the text is different for everyone. It’s really exciting to work with directors that have a sharp and accurate vision of what they want.”
One aspect about Murray’s direction that Gabriella praises is his passionate way of explaining certain moments in the text.
“He’s very expressive with talking about what the lines mean,” she said. “It was really interesting to hear what the dialogue in my major monologue meant to him.”
Each sister is happy to be working together. “Working with my sister has been very helpful,” Gabriella said.
“It’s amazing working with my sister,” Sophia said.
Audiences and critics are praising the summer tale for combining well-respected adult artists and rising talent. Seeing Gabriella, Sophia, and the rest of the cast onstage should be an unforgettable way to celebrate the end of the season.
“Gypsy” is performed at Cygnet Theatre Aug. 26 – Sept. 4. For tickets or more information, visit cygnettheatre.com or call 619-337-1525.
—David Dixon is a freelance theater and film writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.