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Soap opera actors reunite in Pittsburgh CLO's 'Gypsy'

| Wednesday, July 8, 2015, 9:00 p.m.
John Paschal
Actress Kim Zimmer
Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera
Actor Robert Newman

For Kim Zimmer and Robert Newman, Pittsburgh Civic Light Opera's next production will give them an opportunity to revisit roles they have played before.

No, they're not starring as Reva and Josh in “Guiding Light — The Musical.”

Instead, the long-running, fondly remembered daytime-drama couple will play Rose and Herbie in CLO's production of “Gypsy” that will play July 10 through 19 at the Benedum Center, Downtown.

Based on the memoirs of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee, the musical made its Broadway debut in 1959 with a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Set in the show-business world of the 1920s and '30s, it focuses on Rose, the ultimate stage mother, a woman driven to give her two daughters the chance she never had to be a headliner on the vaudeville circuit.

The score contains tunes from the golden age of musicals, such as “Everything's Coming up Roses,” “Let Me Entertain You,” “You'll Never Get Away from Me” and “You Gotta Get a Gimmick.”

Zimmer had played Rose in 2006 at the Barn Theatre in Augusta, Mich., and was eager to have another crack at it.

“It was one of the most challenging and rewarding shows I have ever done,” Zimmer says.

While appearing as Mme. Morrible in the national tour of “Wicked,” Zimmer learned that CLO had put “Gypsy” on its schedule.

She had never worked at CLO but had heard lots of good things about the company. She asked her agent to let them know she was available.

Newman, already a CLO veteran, having previously appeared in “A Little Night Music” in 2005 and “The Full Monty” in 2007, also was eager to have another go at the musical after playing Herbie opposite Tovah Feldshuh's Rose in 2011 at the Bristol Theatre in Bristol, Bucks County.

“I love the dialogue. It's very smart. I enjoyed playing the role the first time,” he says. His goal is to have his lines memorized by the time rehearsals begin. “I want to spend the time working on character development.”

For a long time, neither Zimmer nor Newman knew the other was interested in or was being considered for the CLO production.

“We were both in the dark,” Newman says. “By the time she signed on, I knew they were approaching her.”

Though they are doing this show together for the first time, it's not the first time they have appeared on stage together.

Earlier this year, they performed the lead roles in the musical “Curtains” at Papermill Playhouse in Millburn, N.J., along with Amanda Rose, who will play the grown-up Louise in “Gypsy.”

In mid-May, Zimmer and Newman were part of the ensemble for “Putting It Together,” a revue of Sondheim songs in a joint production of the Delaware Theatre Company and the Delaware Symphony Orchestra in Wilmington.

Both are looking forward to working together here.

“There's such a trust component. Neither of us will let the other fail,” Zimmer says.

Alice T. Carter is the theater critic for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7808, or via Twitter @ATCarter_Trib.

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