The first song of this show asks ‘let me entertain you’ and it didn’t disappoint. This incredible show will do more than just entertain – it will keep you on the edge of your seat, it will make you laugh and cry, and I challenge anybody not to give it a standing ovation.
The story of the ultimate pushy parent, Mamma Rose (Imelda Staunton), and her daughters takes you on a roller coaster of emotions from the off. The Overture begins with possibly one of the most familiar sequences in musical theatre and in itself takes you through the happiness and sadness of the story. During the opening sequences we see some very talented children playing the part of Momma Rose’s two girls June (the pretty, talented one) and Louisa (the less pretty, less talented, downtrodden one). In this case it was Isla Huggins-Barr (June) and Holly Hazelton (Louisa) who made us feel very sorry for them. Cue the entrance of Imelda Staunton as Momma Rose singing some people and immediately you knew you were going to be in for a good night. With excellent voice and excellent acting, Imelda made you see the other side – what is it like to be Momma Rose.
As the young girls transition to the older girls (done very cleverly with the aid of some strobe lighting) you continue to follow their journey. Enter Gemma Sutton (June) and Lara Pulver (Louisa). Having only ever seen the latter on television in Spooks and Sherlock (although it should be mentioned her theatre credits way exceed her film and television ones) I was concerned this was all I would be able to see her as. How wrong I was, her previous characters were nowhere to be seen in her frankly incredible portrayal of Louisa who goes from the ignored back half of a cow, to being thrust into the limelight when her sister runs away.
The story continues with an excellent number, All I Need Is The Girl, bringing Tulsa (Dan Burton) and Louisa out of the background, ending in the elopement of June and Tulsa, leaving Louisa in the limelight.
As I head towards the end of the act I realise I have yet to mention Herbie, the agent who is only in it for the promise of marriage to Momma Rose. Peter Davidson (best known or Doctor Who) plays Herbie and although his voice isn’t as strong as the rest of the cast (you can tell his background isn’t really in the musicals although he was in legally blonde) he doesn’t have to sing on his own very often so it didn’t really matter and he played the part of the man, going along with whatever his woman wants no matter how ridiculous, incredibly well.
Bringing us to the end of the half is the most famous song from the show Everything’s Coming Up Roses. A song covered by many of theatre’s greatest including Patti Lu Pone and Bernadette Peters. In my opinion thought that Imelda Staunton blew these ladies out of the water. Her performance was simply magical and as the curtain for the interval went down I felt pretty dizzy since I don’t think I actually breathed in the entirety of the song. It was an honour and a privilege to witness this moment in musical theatre and is one that I will remember for ever.
Into the second act and the spotlight is on Louisa as she grudgingly becomes the star. Very aware of the act that she is second best to June she spends much of it upset about this and Lara Pulver once again showed the transition from this to the confident stripper who is, for the first time, enjoying her job perfectly. Together Wherever We Go provides one last display of love before Louisa becomes Gypsy Rose Lee, the biggest stripper in America, much to the disgust of her mother. Will Louisa and Momma Rose ever make it up?
Well, I wouldn’t want to give anything away other than I again discovered I hadn’t been breathing enough at the end of the show. All I can say is that Imelda Staunton and Lara Pulver give two of the best performances I have ever seen, in one of the best shows with brilliant music, lyrics and staging. Whilst 5 stars is the maximum given, an infinite number of stars wouldn’t be enough to do justice to this fabulous show and there simply aren’t enough positive adjectives in the world to give an adequate description. Congratulations to all involved.
Review by Emily Diver
Based on the true life memoirs of legendary burlesque entertainer, Gypsy Rose Lee, it tells the tale of Momma Rose and her two daughters, Baby June and Louise, trekking across America in their family vaudeville act. But times are changing, audiences are expecting more, and the two girls have their own ambitions in mind. The rise of burlesque is upon them, and nothing will ever be the same again for Momma Rose.
Imelda Staunton, who stars as the indomitable Momma Rose in the West End transfer of Jonathan Kent’s production of Gypsy, is joined by Lara Pulver and Gemma Sutton who reprise the roles of Louise and June respectively in the five star Chichester Festival Theatre production, while Peter Davison joins the cast to play Herbie. The cast also features Dan Burton as Tulsa, Billy Hartman as Uncle Jocko, Jack Chissick as Mr Goldstone, Anita Louise Combe as Tessie Tura, Harry Dickman as Pop, Lucinda Shaw as Mother, Roger Dipper as L.A., Louise Gold as Mazeppa, Clare Halse as Majorie May, Tom Hodgkins as Mr Weber, Kieran Jae as Yonkers, Julie Legrand as Electra, Danielle Morris as Geraldine, Luke Street as Little Rock, Damien Poole as Kansas, Lauren Hall as Delores and Natalie Woods as Agnes. Ensemble members include Liz Ewing, Lauren Ingram, Tom Murphy and Phillip Catchpole.
A musical fable with book by Arthur Laurents, Gypsy has music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim suggested by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, choreography by Stephen Mear, designs by Anthony Ward, musical direction and orchestration by Nicholas Skilbeck, lighting by Mark Henderson and sound by Paul Groothuis.
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Wednesday and Saturday 2.30pm
Note: This review was from a preview performance
Thursday 18th December 2014