Before my birthday trip to Paris - oh yes Constant Reader, I have been to Paris - I had the fabulous chance to see Jonathan Kent's revival of the classic Broadway musical GYPSY which we saw last year at Chichester. It has now transferred to the Savoy Theatre so more people can experience the thrill of seeing Imelda Staunton's magnificent performance as archetypal stage mother Mama Rose.
I blogged about the show last year (re-read it here) but somehow Imelda's already great performance has got even better! Scorching the silver Savoy paintwork with her act-closing solos of EVERYTHING'S COMING UP ROSES and ROSE'S TURN, Imelda seems to have dug down into Rose's character and, while still the driven and argumentative woman blind to her children's real needs, she also reveals the inner Rose - a woman damaged by her own absent mother and who has become emotionally shellacked to deflect any more hurt. As Herbie rightfully describes her, she is "a frontier woman without a frontier".
One of the many strengths of GYPSY is it's magnificent book by Arthur Laurents which provides the jumping off point for the actresses playing Rose and Louise but without the emotional truth of director Jonathan Kent and Imelda Staunton, the characters can sometimes come across as unlikeable.
But not here, Staunton's Rose and Lara Pulver's Louise are vibrantly human and their final confrontation scene is a titanic clash that is all too painful. Lara Pulver is quite marvellous as the neglected Louise, all too aware of her lack of talent but who parlays that into becoming her own special creation Gypsy Rose Lee, the classy burlesque queen.
Kevin Whateley has vanished during the move from Chichester to the Savoy and Herbie is now played by Peter Davidson in a fairly anonymous performance which is the one disappointment of the production.
And of course there is the glorious score by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim which, 56 years on, sounds as fresh and magnificent as ever, especially under the music direction and new orchestration of Nicholas Skilbeck.
One of the score's great showstoppers did just that! Mazeppa, Electra and Tessie Tura, the frowzy, hard-bitten strippers in a seedy Wichita burlesque theatre, stop their squabbling to teach Louise the most important rule of stripping YOU GOTTA GET A GIMMICK and Louise Gold, Julie Legrand and Anita Louise Combe rightfully earned a huge ovation. Louise Gold is also covering the role of Mama Rose... now *that* would be something to see.
A special mention must go to Gemma Sutton's disgruntled Baby June and Dan Burton's Tulsa who dances the heck out of ALL I NEED IS THE GIRL.
It has just been announced that the production's run is being extended to Nov 28th - but why wait? Book now!