Sunday, November 9, 2008

Review: Gypsy

This weekend, my friends NV, MT, CB, & CM from Miami came to the Big Apple to celebrate NV's birthday. We had lots of fun, with dinners, shopping, and dancing, but the highlight for all of us was going to see Gypsy on Broadway at the St. James Theatre. The show was spectacular. Gypsy is taken from the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee (1911-1970), the burlesque stripper and actress. But the main protagonist of the show is Rose, her mother, who manages (and dominates) her two daughters' careers across the country during the waning days of Vaudeville. It has some easily recognizable tunes, like "Let Me Entertain You," "Everything's Coming Up Roses," and "Together Wherever We Go." This Broadway revival won the 2008 Tony Awards for Best Actress (Patti LuPone as Rose), Best Featured Actor (Boyd Gaines as Herbie), and Best Featured Actress (Laura Benanti as Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee). During our performance, Benanti apparently was replaced by her understudy Jessica Rush, so I can't assess what we missed there. However, I can say for certain that I would have been grossly disappointed if I had missed LuPone. If ever a role was written for a singer-actress, Rose was written for Patti LuPone. This woman is a musical knock-out. LuPone has such an incredible stage presence that she dominates every scene she is in, simply by sauntering on stage. Her voice brings down the house. The minute she showed up on stage, the audience gave her a round of applause, and she got a standing ovation at the end of the night. It's not easy to sing a Stephen Sondheim song. His lyrics can become tongue-twisters, and paired with Jule Styne's music, the person who plays Rose needs to make leaps of faith in harmony and tone. Rose has such a pushy stage presence that you expect her to be an exaggeration, but LuPone makes the hyperbolic believable and human. Even more impressive was her control of syncopation and the complexity of the lyrics, all while the orchestra masterfully played catch-up. What can I say but that it was simply astounding. Everything was definitely coming up roses last night.

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