As the lights go down in the Savoy Theatre we are treated to Jule Styne’s swinging overture played by the live orchestra. The curtain goes up to reveal a raggle-taggle bunch of child vaudeville auditions acts only for Mama Rose (Imelda Staunton) to interrupt, bustling her way through the audience to rapturous applause.
It is her we had all come to see and whilst Lara Pulver is excellent as her daughter, the smothered Louise, it is Staunton who steals the show. I had seen Staunton onstage as another of Sondheim’s maniacal leading ladies, in 2012, as Mrs Lovett opposite Michael Ball’s Sweeney Todd. Both of Staunton’s portrayals as Mrs Lovett and Rose, the ultimate pushy stage-mother, are scheming yet vulnerable, tragic and comic at the same time.
That is not to say that Staunton doesn’t show us anything new. Gypsy follows Rose and her two children, ‘Baby’ June and Louise, desperately trying to break her children’s way into the vaudeville circuit whilst infantilising the children in order to keep on with the act and keep them in her thrall. This production manages to highlight the unfailing (and sometimes deluded) belief that is essential to succeed in show business which the 1962 film version failed to do. This show managed to convey the poignancy of the story whilst still delivering all the big moments of the show: the pre-interval ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’, Louise’s transition from child vaudeville player to burlesque star in ‘The Strip’ and the swan song ‘Rose’s Turn’. During Staunton’s big numbers, there are moments when she has the entire audience enthralled and you could have heard a pin drop.
Other highlights of the show include the stunning dance number from the phenomenally talented Dan Burton as Tulsa in ‘All I Need Is The Girl’. Burton is a beautiful and expressive dancer and I get goose bumps at the chemistry between him and Lara Pulver as Louise. The number from the experienced strippers giving advice to the naive Louise, ‘Gotta Get a Gimmick’ is a triumph. Credit must be also given to the creative team who manage to successfully transition a group of ten year olds in to a group of young adults and, in particular, the costumes that transformed the boyish Louise in to the statuesque and gorgeous sex symbol of Gypsy Rose Lee.
Gypsy is a treat and I come out of the show feeling elated by the quality of the performance I have seen. With lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, music by Jule Styne and book by Arthur Laurents the show has been created by musical theatre geniuses. However, whilst it is a great musical it requires careful direction and great acting talent to really expose the truth of the story. Fortunately, this production is able to do that and more. I would urge you to see it during its limited run which closes July 18th. 5/5
Review written by Emily Channon.
Gypsy is currently showing at the Savoy Theatre until Saturday 18th July. For more information on the production, visit here…