Photo by Ben Krantz

Exclusive Interview with Gypsy’s Star

Bay Area Musicals has announced the full cast and creative team for the first production of the Company’s 2019-2020 season, the timeless 6-Time Tony Award-winning masterpiece GYPSY.

Inspired by the 1957 memoirs of legendary burlesque artist Gypsy Rose Lee, GYPSY features music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents.

Bay Area Musicals’ production of GYPSY runs through December 8, 2019 and will perform at San Francisco’s Alcazar Theatre (650 Geary St, San Francisco, CA 94102).

Regular tickets range from $40 – $85 and can be purchased online at Opening Night Fundraiser Tickets (available only for the Saturday, November 9 performance at 8:00 p.m.) range from $50 – $100 and includes dessert and a champagne toast with the cast (and can also be purchased online at

Bay Area Musicals’ production of GYPSY will be directed and choreographed by Matthew McCoy (who will also serve as set and lighting designer), with music direction by Jon Gallo.

“Our stellar cast comes from all over the Bay, and our Rose, Ariela Morgenstern, has wowed audiences throughout San Francisco and across the country,” says Director Matthew McCoy.

Here is the promised exclusive interview with the play’s mesmerizing star.

Cultural Currents: In addition to performing, you teach acting for singers at Berkeley Rep School of Theatre, Stanford University and at your own monthly Singing Actor Studio. How do you find the time to time to strike a good work/life balance?

Ariela Morgenstern: It is a challenge to say the least! And I have a 3 year old so in addition to juggling my own time I am also juggling time spent with my little girl in addition to finding childcare for her when my schedule gets crazy. I am lucky that my teaching and coaching jobs are flexible — and also very grateful for a supportive partner and family — without whom I simply would not be able to make my heavy rehearsal schedule possible. But when I’m in a show it takes a toll on our little family and I just can’t (and chose not to) do a ton of shows a year like some of my amazingly prolific colleagues. I make sure that the shows I do are fewer but specifically projects, people or skills I want to work on. I have to have a balance to thrive; if I don’t practice my art I feel something profound is missing, and if I’m gone too much I feel disconnected from my loved ones. My parents modeled for me at a young age being an active performer (my father was an opera singer and my mother a pianist) and it is a part of being a whole and thriving person to me. But…how do I do It? Making the most of little moments and mornings—and chair massages at the mall help a lot too!

CC: It’s also interesting to note that you conduct Leadership Communications at the Haas School of Business, and with the Berkeley Executive Coaching Institute. What are the primary lessons you wish to impart?

Morgenstern: My work with the Coaching institute is incredible—we work at Haas together and also with teams and organizations all over the world leading workshops and teaching classes. We help people get connected more deeply with what they’re passionate about and more deeply connected with each other. I get to coach brilliant people on Using and telling their own life stories and find that same powerful voice and vibrance I feel in the theatre, in the real world. I feel very blessed to work with a company that’s truly bringing good into the world, and that I get to use my craft and body of knowledge. I’ve often thought about our founder Mark Rittenberg who asks people “when did you decide to be boring!?” when I say at the beginning of the show as Rose “Anybody that stays home is dead. If I die it won’t be from sitting, it will be from fighting to get up and get out!” The biggest take away I Always leave with after a long day teaching with the group is that it will never serve you or anyone else to live a life half-lived. Hiding ourselves, what makes us unique, and falling into the pattern of withdrawing ourselves at work has grave consequences: we were meant to thrive, and inspire others to do so.

CC: Our readers may also remember you for your starring role in A.C.T.’s “A Walk on the Moon.” What insights can you share about our local theatre audiences?

Morgenstern: What a fantastic experience it was to work on that show and help create something new with such a Stellar creative team!! I’m a born-and-raised San Franciscan and I’ve always thought that SF and Bay Area audiences — and the performing/creating talent pool—are a special breed. This area is teeming with creativity, wit, energy—and a subversive activist sensibility. It’s just my kind of theatre and people, and there’s so MUCH of it it’s nearly impossible to catch it all!

CC: You are certainly no stranger to playing the Diva, as you had the title role in the opera “Carmen” (UCSC, San Francisco Lyric Opera & Bay Shore Lyric Opera). What unique demands are made by playing “Rose”?

 Morgenstern: Wow I am a LUCKY lady indeed—I’ve had the honor of playing some of the juiciest roles out there that I love! (Aldonza in The Man of La Mancha, Diana In Next To Normal, Jenny in The Threepenny Opera, Franca in The Light in the Piazza to name some of the big divas—and of course Carmen and Momma Rose. Hmm…looking at this list…perhaps I specialize in angst!?) Although nothing quite holds a candle to (at least for my skillset,) having to sustain the run Of an opera (and a Mozart opera to boot) there is something particularly challenging about doing Momma Rose: she talks. A lot. And mainly passionately and often angrily. The speaking combined with the challenging singing is the hard part for me, and I am constantly finding places in the show where I can save myself, find a lighter touch or a different placement of tone, etc., while still keeping all of her sound and movement in the same world of her character. Because I was trained classically and worked for years as a professional opera singer “before” I moved over to doing mainly musical theatre singing in my mix and head voice is still my comfort zone and baseline. I think my portrayal of Momma is different from some of the iconic versions because I bring in many different tones to her voice for different parts of her emotional journey.

But don’t worry, purists: I still belt for my LIFE. I am relieved overall to say that the training I’ve received from some amazing teachers (Andrew Byrne in NY, Wendy Hillhouse and Julia Nielsen locally, and Patrice Maginnis at UCSC) has made it so that the final show of the weekend is often the strongest vocally!