The musical contains many songs that became popular standards, including "Small World," "Everything's Coming up Roses", "You'll Never Get Away from Me," and "Let Me Entertain You." It is frequently considered one of the crowning achievements of the mid-20th century's conventional musical theatre art form, often called the "book musical."
Gypsy has been referred to as the greatest American musical by numerous critics and writers, among them Ben Brantley and Frank Rich; Rich even goes so far as to call it the American musical theatre's answer to King Lear. Theater critic Clive Barnes wrote that "Gypsy is one of the best of musicals...." He described the character of Rose as "one of the few truly complex characters in the American musical...."
In analyzing the character of Rose, Clive Barnes described her as "bossy, demanding, horrific...." Rich described Rose as "a monster". Critic Walter Kerr commented that though Rose is a monster, she must be liked and understood.Patti LuPone describes Rose as follows: "She has tunnel vision, she's driven, and she loves her kids.... And she is a survivor. I do not see her as a monster at all — she may do monstrous things, but that does not make a monster. Sondheim has said of the character: "The fact that she's monstrous to her daughters and the world is secondary.... She's a very American character, a gallant figure and a life force." Sondheim also noted, "Yet the end of Gypsy is not entirely bleak. Louise comes out a star and forgives her mother. There is hope for her. Rose does confront who she is in 'Rose's Turn.' There is a catharsis. It's not Rodgers and Hammerstein, but you feel maybe the mother and daughter will come to an understanding and maybe triumph over Rose's craziness and Louise's bitterness."
In the months that follow she becomes secure, always following her mother's advice to "Make 'em beg for more, and then don't give it to them!" This is demonstrated in a montage in which the song becomes brasher and brassier, and more and more articles of clothing come off. Ultimately, Louise becomes a major burlesque star and does not need her mother any longer. Herbie and June are both gone, and Rose, sad and feeling useless, asks "Why did I do it? When is it my turn?" ("Rose's Turn"). She fantasizes about her own lit up runway and cheering audience, but finally admits "I did it for me." Mother and daughter tentatively step toward reconciliation in the end.
Notes on the songs
† Titled "Have an Eggroll, Mr. Goldstone" in the 2008 revival
†† Titled "The Strip" in the 2008 revival and on the recording of the 1989 revival.
During the pre-Broadway tryout tour, several songs were cut, including a song for Herbie called "Nice She Ain't" (cut because it was given to Jack Klugman one week prior to opening and he could not memorize the keys and staging one week before. ), and a song for Baby June and Baby Louise titled "Mama's Talkin' Soft". The latter song was cut because the staging required the little girls to stand on a platform elevated above the stage. The young actress playing Baby Louise was terrified and the song was cut. "Mama's Talkin' Soft" was later recorded by Petula Clark and released as a single in the UK in 1959.
The original production opened on May 21, 1959, at The Broadway Theatre, moved to the Imperial Theatre, and ran for 702 performances after 2 previews. Produced by David Merrick it starred Ethel Merman, Jack Klugman, Maria Karnilova, and Sandra Church in the title role. Direction and choreography were by Jerome Robbins; critic Frank Rich has referred to Robbins's work as one of the most influential stagings of a musical in American theatrical history. The original production received eight Tony Award nominations, including best musical, best musical actress, best featured actor, best featured actress, best scenic design, best costume design, and best direction of a musical, but failed to win any.
After the show closed on Broadway in March 1961, two national touring companies toured the United States. The first company starred Merman and opened in March 1961 at the Rochester, New York Auditorium, and closed in December 1961 at the American, St. Louis, Missouri. The second national company starred Mary McCarty as Rose and a young Bernadette Peters in various ensemble roles; it opened in September 1961 at the Shubert Theatre, Detroit and closed in January 1962 at the Hanna, Cleveland, Ohio.
Gypsy opened in London's West End on May 29, 1973, at the Piccadilly Theatre and played for 300 performances. The director was Arthur Laurents, and the choreography was reproduced by Robert Tucker. It starred Angela Lansbury as Rose, with Zan Charisse as Louise, Barry Ingham as Herbie, Debbie Bowen as the older June, and Bonnie Langford as Dainty June. On September 23, 1974, the same production opened at Broadway's Winter Garden Theatre for a planned limited run of 120 performances after 4 previews. The cast remained mostly the same in New York, but Rex Robbins was Herbie, Maureen Moore (later Bernadette Peters' understudy as Rose in the 2003 revival) played the adult June, and Mary Louise Wilson was Tessie Tura.
Opened on November 16, 1989, at the St. James Theatre, moved to the Marquis Theatre, and ran for 476 performances after 23 previews. Laurents again directed. Tyne Daly played Rose (later replaced by Linda Lavin), with Jonathan Hadary and Crista Moore.
This revival opened on May 1, 2003, at the Shubert Theatre and closed on May 30, 2004, after 451 performances and 33 previews. It was directed by Sam Mendes with choreography by Jerome Robbins and additional choreography by Jerry Mitchell. Bernadette Peters starred as "Rose", with Tammy Blanchard (Louise/Gypsy) and John Dossett (Herbie) co-starring. New York Times theatre critic Ben Brantley wrote that Peters' performance was the first "to have broken the Merman mold." This production became somewhat controversial when Peters missed performances during previews and early in the run due to illness, and the show closed at a loss despite running more than a year. The production was expected to recoup a little more than half its $8 million investment.
Gypsy was presented by Encores! from July 9 to 29, with Patti LuPone again playing Rose, and direction by Arthur Laurents. Principal casting included Laura Benanti in the title role of "Gypsy/Louise", with Boyd Gaines as "Herbie", Leigh Ann Larkin as "Dainty June", Alison Fraser as "Tessie Tura", Nancy Opel as "Mazeppa"/"Miss Cratchitt", and Marilyn Caskey as "Electra".
Gypsy was presented by Phoenix Entertainment with Kathy Halenda starring as Rose and Missy Dowse as Louise. The production was directed by Sam Viverto and assisted by Aja Kane. Principal casting also included Ruby Lewis as June, Rachel Abrams as Mazeppa, Loriann Freda as Tessie Tura, Nick Hamel as Herbie, and Maria Egler as Electra. Baby Louise was Kristina Lachaga, and Baby June was Claire Norden. The tour ended in May 2008.
The Encores! production is being revived on Broadway at the St. James Theatre. Previews started March 3, 2008, with the official opening March 27. Patti LuPone (Rose), Boyd Gaines (Herbie), Laura Benanti (Louise) and Leigh Ann Larkin (Dainty June) repeat their roles, with Arthur Laurents again directing and Bonnie Walker reproducing the original choreography by Jerome Robbins. They are joined by Tony Yazbeck as Tulsa, Marilyn Caskey as Electra, Alison Fraser as Tessie, and Lenora Nemetz as Mazeppa with Sami Gayle as Baby June. The set is designed by James Youmans, costumes by Martin Pakledinaz and lighting by Howell Binkley
New York Times critic Ben Brantley gave the production a rave review, praising LuPone, Laurents and the rest of the principal cast, and describing the characterizations achieved in the production as follows:
"You see, everyone's starved for attention in 'Gypsy.' That craving, after all, is the motor that keeps showbiz puttering along. And Mr. Laurents makes sure that we sense that hunger in everyone.... I was so caught up in the emotional wrestling matches between the characters (and within themselves), that I didn't really think about the songs as songs.... There is no separation at all between song and character, which is what happens in those uncommon moments when musicals reach upward to achieve their ideal reasons to be.
This production won three Tony Awards and three Drama Desk Awards, in each case for the performances by Lupone, Gaines and Benanti.
Gypsy was also adapted as a television movie in 1993 with Bette Midler playing Rose. Cynthia Gibb portrayed Louise and Jennifer Beck portrayed Dainty June. Bette Midler won the Golden Globe Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for TV; Michael Rafter won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Music Direction. This production is known for being a rare example of a film/TV project in which some the songs are sung "live", and not sync'd to a pre-recorded track.
|1959 OBC||Ethel Merman||Sandra Church||Lane Bradbury||Jack Klugman||Jerome Robbins|
|1974 Revival||Angela Lansbury||Zan Charisse||Maureen Moore||Rex Robbins||Arthur Laurents|
|1989 Revival||Tyne Daly||Crista Moore||Tracy Venner||Jonathan Hadary||Arthur Laurents|
|2003 Revival||Bernadette Peters||Tammy Blanchard||Kate Reinders||John Dossett||Sam Mendes|
|2008 Revival||Patti LuPone||Laura Benanti||Leigh Ann Larkin||Boyd Gaines||Arthur Laurents|
The original Broadway cast album is notable as Ethel Merman's first recording in the then-new stereophonic sound technology. Motion pictures recorded in stereo had been steadily made since 1953, and stereo was first used on magnetic tape in 1954, but it was not until 1958, a year before Gypsy opened, that it became possible to use this technology on records.
The 1974 Broadway recording was not an actual recording of the Broadway revival, but a remix of the London Cast recording of 1973 with a new recording of "Some People".
The 2008 Broadway cast recording was released August 28, 2008.
|1959 Original Production|
|Tony Awards||Best Musical||Leading Actress (Ethel Merman)||Featured Actor (Jack Klugman)||Featured Actress (Sandra Church)|
|Scenic Design (Jo Mielziner)||Costume Design (Raoul Pène Du Bois)||Best Direction||Best Director (Jerome Robbins)|
|Note: The 1959 Tony Award for Best Musical was won jointly by Fiorello and The Sound of Music, the latter of which dominated the Awards.|
|Tony Awards||Leading Actress (Angela Lansbury)*||Featured Actress (Zan Charisse)||Direction|
|Drama Desk Awards||Outstanding Actress (Lansbury)*||Outstanding Featured Actress (Bonnie Langford)*||Outstanding Director*|
|Theatre World Awards||Zan Charisse*||John Sheridan*|
|Tony Awards||Best Revival*||Leading Actress (Tyne Daly)*||Featured Actor (Jonathan Hadary)||Featured Actress (Crista Moore)|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Actress (Daly)*||Outstanding Featured Actor (Hadary)||Outstanding Featured Actress (Moore)||Outstanding Revival*|
|Theatre World Award||Robert Lambert*||Crista Moore*|
|Tony Awards||Best Revival||Leading Actress (Bernadette Peters)||Featured Actor (John Dossett)||Featured Actress (Tammy Blanchard)|
|Drama Desk Awards||Outstanding Revival||Outstanding Actress (Peters)||Outstanding Featured Actor (Dossett)|
|Theatre World Award||Tammy Blanchard*|
|Tony Awards||Best Revival||Leading Actress (Lupone) *||Featured Actor (Gaines) *||Featured Actress (Benanti) *|
|Costume Design (Martin Pakledinaz)||Sound Design (Dan Moses Schreier)||Direction (Laurents)|
|Drama Desk Awards||Outstanding Revival||Outstanding Actress (LuPone) *||Outstanding Featured Actor (Gaines) *||Outstanding Featured Actress (Benanti) *|
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding Revival of a Musical||Outstanding Director of a Musical (Laurents)||Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Gaines)||Outstanding Actress in a Musical (LuPone) *|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (Yazbeck)||Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (Benanti) *|
|Note: Winners indicated by an asterisk (*).|