The Grit & Glamour of Showbiz – On Stage at the Exchange This Christmas

The exuberance, grit and glamour of Burlesque finds a home in the Exchange’s unique in-the-round theatre this Christmas in director Jo Davies’ sizzling GYPSY. With Ria Jones as the tour-de-force that is Momma Rose, the wonderful world of show business is brought to life by Jo and her creative team: Choreographer Andrew Wright, Musical Supervisor Joel Fram and Designer Francis O’Connor. Ria Jones is joined by Melissa James as Louise, Melissa Lowe as June and Louis Gaunt as Tulsa in this production of the extraordinary musical GYPSY which can be seen in the theatre from 30 November 2019 – 25 January 2020.

Choosing the bright lights of the stage over putting her girls though school, Momma Rose is resolute in her desire to see her daughters, Louise and June, realise her dreams of stardom and adoration. But how are these young women shaped by her actions, what is passed down from generation to generation, and what new opportunities are afforded to one but denied to another?

The GYPSY cast also includes Dale Rapley, Stephen Casey and Michael S. Siegel as Herbie, Uncle Jocko and Father; the roles of Tessie Tura, Mazeppa and Electra are played by Rebecca Thornhill, Suzie Chard and Kate O’Donnell (who returns to the Exchange following her performance as Feste in Jo Davies’ TWELFTH NIGHT); and the ensemble is Roshani Abbey, Alastair Crosswell, Amie Hibbert, Kody Mortimer, Bryan Mottram, Lizzie Nance and Marianne Phillips.

Ria Jones’ career spans over three decades as a leading lady in Musical Theatre, both in the West End and internationally. Roles as diverse as Eva Peron in EVITA, Norma Desmond in SUNSET BOULEVARD, to the iconic Mrs Overall in ACORN ANTIQUES, to name but a few. As well as T.V, Radio, and numerous recordings, Ria performs regularly as a concert soloist, frequently with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and major orchestras worldwide.

Also making their Royal Exchange Theatre debuts are Melissa James, Melissa Lowe and Louis Gaunt.

Melissa James trained at Arts Ed. theatre credits include WISE CHILDREN (The Old Vic/UK Tour), EUGENIUS! (West End), THE TWO NOBLE KINSMEN (Shakespeare’s Globe), ONE LOVE: THE BOB MARLEY MUSICAL (Birmingham Rep), ANNIE GET YOUR GUN (Sheffield Crucible), A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (Theatre Royal Bath), THE BODYGUARD, CATS (UK tour), GUYS AND DOLLS (Chichester Festival Theatre) and WEST SIDE STORY (RSC).

Melissa Lowe trained at Arts Ed. Her theatre credits include THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (Bolton Octagon), THE CAT IN THE HAT (Leicester Curve, UK Tour & Rose Theatre, Kingston), ME & MY GIRL (Chichester Festival Theatre) and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR (Teatru Astra).

Louis Gaunt is the 2018 The Stage Debut Awards WINNER for Best Actor in A Musical – for OKLAHOMA! His theatre credits include: GREASE (National Tour), THE HAPPY PRINCE (The Place), STANDING AT THE SKY’S EDGE (Sheffield Crucible), KISS ME, KATE (Sheffield Crucible), SWEET CHARITY (Nottingham Playhouse), OKLAHOMA! (Grange Park Opera) and DICK WHITTINGTON (London Palladium).

Director Jo Davies returns to the Royal Exchange following her lavish production of TWELFTH NIGHT. She is an international theatre and opera Director and her most recent work includes THE FANTASTIC FOLLIES OF MRS RICH (Royal Shakespeare Company), CARMEN (Welsh National Opera), DON CARLO (Grange Park Opera) and THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (Opera North / Tour). Other work includes THE ROARING GIRL (Royal Shakespeare Company), TWELFTH NIGHT (Royal Exchange) KISS ME KATE (Opera North / London Coliseum), OKLAHOMA (Grange Park Opera) and CAROUSEL (Barbican/ Chatalet Theatre Paris).

The creative team includes Designer Francis O’Connor, Costume Designer Gabrielle Dalton, Lighting Designer Colin Grenfell, Sound Designer Carolyn Downing, Choreographer Andrew Wright, Musical Supervisor Joel Fram, Musical Director Leo Munby and Orchestrator Sam Davies.


A Musical Fable, Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Jule Styne, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Suggested by memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. Original Production by David Merrick & Leland Hayward. Entire production originally directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins.
Directed by Jo Davies
With Ria Jones

30 November 2019 – 25 January 2020
Press Night: Thurs 5 December, 7.30pm – The Theatre