rambling reporter

LuPone makes Rose bloom again in 'Gypsy'

The big theater va-voom of the week isn't happening on Broadway but rather a few dozen paces north, at City Center on West 55th. That's where Patti LuPone will be belting out "Everything's Coming Up Roses," "Rose's Turn" and those other great Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim songs during a three-week run of the venerable musical-with-fangs masterpiece "Gypsy," which began prevuing Sunday night and officially opens Saturday. Does anyone need explaining that this was the great Ethel Merman hit, the monster success that capped her long and spectacular career, just as "The Visit" was the Mount Everest for Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, "Hello, Dolly!" the summit for Carol Channing and "The Entertainer" Laurence Olivier's crowning glory in the theater. Since Merman first inhabited it in 1959, many have played and sung the role of quintessential stage mother Mama Rose: Rosalind Russell did the movie version, Angela Lansbury won a Tony for her striking interpretation in the 1974 Broadway revival, and more recently Tyne Daly and Bernadette Peters have taken their turns, not counting the dozens who have done road tours, regional revivals and summer-theater runs. Few since Merman, however, seem as adamantly right for the role as the lady who will be belting out those numbers on the City Center's stage. Although the City Center is known as the home of the "Encores!" series of concert stagings of past-tense musicals, and this "Gypsy" is a summertime "Encores!" project, it isn't a concert version but rather a fully staged production. It also is the kind of booking that adds bedazzle to the whole theater scene, particularly intriguing, too, because it's being directed by Arthur Laurents, who wrote the original book. It has long been a part of showbiz legend that for years he resisted having LuPone play the famous role. Now he's directing her in it. … There is one major, bona fide Broadway opener this week: "Xanadu," a musical comedy based on the 1980 Olivia Newton-John and Gene Kelly musical, officially launches tonight at the Helen Hayes, next door to Sardi's, with music and lyrics by Jeff Lynne & John Farrar, book by Douglas Carter Beane and direction by Christopher Ashley. The cast is headed by Broadway stalwart Tony Roberts, along with Cheyenne Jackson and Kerry Butler, in the role previously inhabited by Newton-John. … On July 16, the Academy's New York wing will hold a screening of 1984 best picture Oscar winner "Amadeus" at the Academy's theater on East 59th as part of its "Monday Nights With Oscar" series. A great plus for the occasion is a postshow, onstage discussion with the two stars of the film, F. Murray Abraham (who won an Oscar for his performance) and Tom Hulce (also a best actor nominee that year), along with director Milos Forman (he won an Oscar for the film, too) and Christine Ebersole. Ebersole? Most people have forgotten or never realized that this year's Tony-winning best actress in a musical (for "Grey Gardens") is in the film; she plays Katerina Cavalieri, one of Mozart's patrons. Speaking of Hulce, he also was a major Tony winner this year, as a co-producer of "Spring Awakening," which was named best musical.