WOW! WOW! WOW! It doesn’t matter how many previous productions of the musical “Gypsy” you’ve seen—this one, starring Patti Lupone, is, without a doubt, the ne plus ultra. It even managed to knock “Jersey Boys” out of my top spot for favorite musical ever.
You know the story: needy, greedy stage-mom-from-hell pushes her daughters into show business so she can experience it vicariously. From the moment she enters down the aisle, Lupone is mesmerizing. Riveting. Electric. Every syllable, every note was crystal clear, thanks to a truly remarkable sound job. Lupone, of course, is a legendary powerhouse, and she makes every moment she’s on stage meaningful and magical. She is part of a tiny, elite group of stage actresses who have the whole package—the voice, the presence, the diction, the charm, the energy, the depth, the complexity, the evocativeness. And it all comes pouring out in the blazing “Rose’s Turn” near the end of the second act, in which Rose unleashes her furies, stopping the show for a prolonged, deserved standing ovation. It is, quite simply, the most captivating musical moment I’ve ever experienced in the theatre. (I’ve never seen a standing-o during a show, and it reminded me of being in the movie theatre for “Dreamgirls,” when the audience spontaneously erupted into thunderous applause after Jennifer Hudson’s bring-down-the-house performance of “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Incidentally, I’ve always wished I could go back in time to 1982 to see that original moment live on stage with Jennifer Holliday. I am a sucker for big Broadway moments.)
The production was paced perfectly—the big moments, the heartbreaking moments, the funny moments, the production numbers were each exactly the right length and were interspersed with exquisite expertise, thanks to brilliant director Arthur Laurents. Boyd Gaines was marvelous as Herbie, and he and Lupone have an obvious charming rapport.
The other show-stopper was “You Gotta Get A Gimmick,” the musical tutorial by three perfectly-cast burlesque dancers, teaching Louise the finer points of stripping. Casting was superb all the way down the line, including Lenora Nemetz as Miss Cratchitt, and the delightfully talented kids. (Laura Benanti as Louise was replaced in our matinée performance by Jessica Rush.)
Speaking of the kids, we took our kids to the show to celebrate Matthew’s 10th birthday, and in the first act when a foursome of young boys performed with Baby June, one of them looked exactly like Matthew. So much so, in fact, that upon a trip to the rest room during intermission, Matthew was stopped five times by theatre-goers who praised his work on stage. And two of them asked for his autograph!
In short, this is a must-see for anyone who loves musical theatre. It’s worth a splurge…you absolutely don’t want to miss Lupone in the role she was born to play.