2. May We Entertain You
3. Some People
4. Seattle To Los Angeles
5. Small World
6. Baby June And Her Newsboys/Let Me Entertain You
7. Have An Eggroll, Mr. Goldstone
8. Little Lamb
9. You’ll Never Get Away From Me
10. Dainty June And Her Farmboys
12. If Momma Was Married
13. All I Need Is The Girl
14. Everything’s Coming Up Roses
15. Madame Rose’s Toreadorables
16. Together Wherever We Go
17. You Gotta Get A Gimmick
18. The Strip
19. Rose’s Turn
20. Tomorrow’s Mother’s Day
21. Mother’s Day (Alternate Version)
22. Small World/Momma’s Talkin’ Soft
23. Nice She Ain’t
24. Smile, Girls
25. Who Needs Him?
26. Three Wishes For Christmas
Much in the same way that Lear is the Everest of a senior actor’s career, playing Momma Rose is the pinnacle achievement of a musical theatre diva.
Gypsy, which starred Ethel Merman in its original 1959 production, has had no shortage of Broadway revivals – four to be exact, starring Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bernadette Peters, and now Patti LuPone. In addition, the show has been made into two films, one for theatrical release and one for TV, starring Rosalind Russell and Bette Middler respectively. Still, no matter how many times the show has been revived, audiences keep flocking to see what new imprint an actress will leave on role of Rose.
And so, the 2003 Bernadette Peters production a recent memory in the minds of theatre aficionados, a new set of producers took a chance on bringing Gypsy back to Broadway, this time starring Broadway legend Patti LuPone as everyone’s favorite Momma. The production began at City Center’s Encores! Summer Stars series last year, transferring to Broadway this spring with most of its cast intact, earning rave reviews and a handful of Tony Awards, including statues for LuPone and her costars, Boyd Gaines and Laura Benanti.
For some choosing a favorite Rose is like choosing a favorite flavor of ice cream; each has its own attraction. Tyne Daly was a better actress than singer, Bernadette had her kewpie doll sex appeal, and Merman had – well, she was Ethel Merman. As Roses go, however, LuPone can easily run with the pack. She tears through Some People and Everything’s Coming Up Roses, the show’s big first act numbers, with ease.
And as ferocious as her Momma can be, Patti can also play the comedy, one of her greatest strengths. Small World, You’ll Never Get Away From Me, and Together Wherever We Go are a delight. Her rendition of Rose’s Turn, too full of shouting for my taste, takes some time to warm to, but it’s certainly a wonder to behold, full of brute force and wounded pride.
It helps that this production’s Momma is bolstered by such a wonderful supporting cast. Boyd Gaines plays Herbie with great dignity. His is a role with little singing, but he still manages to make a strong impression here. And Laura Benanti as Louise – known by the end of the show as Gypsy Rose Lee – is a revelation. Her transformation from no-go girl to showgirl is a wonder to behold. It’s safe to say that Little Lamb has never been sung so deftly. Nor have we ever had such a tour de force rendition of The Strip to savor. Leigh Ann Larkin sings the role of June sweetly, and the strippers – Lenora Nemetz, Marilyn Caskey, and especially Alison Fraser – are wonderful on You Gotta Get A Gimmick.
What’s always been the most exhausting thing about Gypsy, at least to me, is the monotony of the numbers for the child actors. As usual, they’re as braying on this recording, and intentionally so, but it’s worth enduring the kiddie numbers – or skipping over them – for the otherwise strong performances here.
Additionally the seven bonus tracks that conclude the disc are largely unnecessary, but completists will likely jump for joy at the chance to hear previously unrecorded material. Who Needs Him? is most notable among the bunch, giving the character of Rose a biting torch song in which to bray over the loss of Herbie. But it’s ultimately clear that the show works as it’s performed.
A Barnes and Noble exclusive release of the recording also includes an additional disc with eight extra tracks, most of them containing transitional dialogue or instrumentals. They’re mostly curious bits and pieces, but this version is worth considering for the inclusion of the wonderfully-acted pivotal scene between Rose and Gypsy following Rose’s Turn and the exit music that follows.
It’s up to listeners to decide whether LuPone’s take is up their alley, but this recording makes an excellent case for her performance. It’s well-mixed by producer Robert Sher, features a punchy full orchestra, and gives its target audience exactly what it’s looking for – another in a long line of Gypsy recordings, one which will surely continue ad infinitum as long as anyone cares to see yet another ballsy interpretation of Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurent’s towering Momma of all roles.