The title of this 1959 Jule Styne/Stephen Sondheim musical comes from the fact that it’s loosely based on the memoirs of the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and that a “gypsy” in theatrical parlance is a performer who travels from show to show seemingly always on the road as do Rose, Baby June and Louise for most of “Gypsy”. But after having had the great pleasure of seeing the stupendous Imelda Staunton in one of the finest performances I’ve ever seen on the West End stage, it’s time to change the title of the show to “Rose” – and possibly even re-name the theatre The Staunton”!
“Momma Rose” is a monster of a driven stage mother and we really should hate her for it but Staunton makes us love her and as the show unfolds and the layers get peeled away, we find out what drives her to do what she does and we sympathise with this demanding woman who constantly pushes people out of her life. Her total disintegration during the last song of the show “Rose’s Turn” is both thrilling and chilling and I really can’t praise Stanton’s emotional execution of the turmoil going through Rose’s mind enough as she fantasises about a life that might have been – a piece of pure theatrical genius that breaks your heart.
But as immense as Staunton’s performance is, this certainly isn’t a one-woman show. She’s ably supported by Lara Pulver as “Louise” who over the course of two hours, goes from a shy, mousey, talentless child to a sexy, confident Gypsy Rose Lee – the world’s most famous stripper and Peter Davison as the put upon “Herbie” who really loves Rose even though he sees her many faults. The rest of the cast is right out of the top drawer but special mention must go to Julie Legrand, Anita Louise Combe and Louise Gold who bare more than just their souls as middle-aged strippers in the show-stopping “You Gotta Get A Gimmick”.
Although “Gypsy” is nearly 60 years old, it doesn’t show its age at all. The Styne score is full of wonderful music and Sondheim’s lyrics are as sharp as you’d expect. The book by Arthur Laurents crackles with wit and pathos and is one of the finest of any musical of the 20th century. Jonathan Kent’s direction is razor sharp and allied with Stephen Mear’s choreography, there isn’t a dull moment to be had.
It’s on for just a limited run so book your tickets now or you’ll regret it forever. 5* (because that’s all I’m allowed).
Review by Alan Fitter
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Wednesday and saturday 2.30pm
Running Time: 2 Hours 50 Minutes
Show Opened: 28th March 2015
Booking Until: 28th November 2015
Wednesday 15th July 2015