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Theater review: 'Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves'

FST's fast-paced —occasionally raunchy — musical revue lives up to its title.

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FST’s latest musical revue gives bad girls their due. “Nuns, Homemakers and Entrepreneurs” is not the title; “Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves” is. The show lives up to its name.

The revue opens with a few syrupy nice-girl songs of the 1950s. This sets up a comparison-and-contrast with the bad-girl ballads to follow. Women who talk back, push back, unleash their libidos, speak their minds, demand r-e-s-p-e-c-t and occasionally put bullets in the brainpans of cheaters take center stage.

The songs are cheeky, sassy and occasionally raunchy, in case I’m not making myself clear.

Jannie Jones. Photo by Matthew Holler.
Jannie Jones. Photo by Matthew Holler.

“Proud Mary” channels the Tina Turner version of John Fogerty’s classic. “The Night that the Lights Went Out in Georgia” introduces you to a woman who put a man’s lights out, got away with murder and sent an innocent man to the chair. “Long John Blues” celebrates a dentist’s dimensions with puns involving drills and cavity filling. The titular “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves” offers a theory of cyclical history and hypocrisy: a wheel of karma, fueled by sex. “What’s Love Got to Do With It” expands on Harlan Ellison’s thesis that “Love ain’t nothing but sex misspelled.” "Minnie the Moocher," as we all know, was a low-down hoochie-coocher. Hell, “Nine to Five” vents an unmotivated female employee’s bitter grievances with upper management. What’s wrong with this country?

Bad girls indeed. Gypsies, tramps and thieves, you might say. No false advertising here. But a trio of talent.

While not officially crowned queen, Jannie Jones is the trio’s de facto leader. Great voice. Strong, too. I figure she could bring the roof down if she pulled out the stops. Meredith Jones portrays a naïve Southern belle — or ding dong. (There’s a running gag of the other women showing her what’s what.) Juliana Davis Ditmyer is more urban and urbane. Great voices, all.

Loosely speaking, these women sing in character — exaggerated versions of their true identities, I assume. (But what do I know?)

Juliana Davis Ditmyer. Photo by Matthew Holler.
Juliana Davis Ditmyer. Photo by Matthew Holler.

Jim Prosser accompanies these unladylike ladies with quick-change piano artistry. He bangs out the tunes on his old piano, constantly switching gears, style and tempo. Does the man put his fingers on ice overnight? Just wondering.

If all that sounds fast-paced, you’re getting the right impression. Director Catherine Randazzo puts the pedal to the metal and keeps it there. Basically, it’s a fast show about fast woman. What else?

Uh …

Well, that’s pretty much it.

It’s a fun revue, but loosely structured. Aside from the trio’s goofy interactions, there’s no real story. The trio of Jones, Jones and Ditmyer has no elaborate history; this is not the latest stop on the trio’s tour. The hear-me-roar history lesson is also sporadic. You’ll hear a few references to feminism and the music industry, sure. But these breadcrumbs don’t lead out of the forest. Music history is equally sketchy. Songwriters’ names are sometimes dropped. And sometimes dropped out. Why?

Rebecca and Richard Hopkins created this revue. My guess is they figured most of the songs are stories. Putting those stories inside one big story would confuse the issue. That’s my guess.

But what do I know?


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