EmptySt. James Theatre, New York
New York theater audiences haven't exactly been suffering from a paucity of productions of the classic musical "Gypsy" in recent years, but the current revival starring Patti LuPone demonstrates that, if done right, there can never be enough. Previously seen in the summer in an acclaimed staging by Encores at City Center, this rendition directed by the show's book writer, Arthur Laurents, is as pleasurable as the last major production seen here -- directed by Sam Mendes and starring Bernadette Peters -- was disappointing.
Musical theater lovers can no doubt sing every song from Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's brilliant musical score by memory. Such numbers as "Some People," "Small World," "All I Need Is the Girl," "Rose's Turn" and of course "Everything's Coming Up Roses" are indelible.
Faithful to the 1959 Broadway production to the point of reproducing Jerome Robbins' original choreography, the show is modestly produced, featuring respectable if not particularly lavish scenery, but it gets the job done in every essential way.
It's not surprising that LuPone is a powerhouse in a role that, starting with Ethel Merman, has long provided a vehicle for divas of a certain age. Besides delivering the classic songs with tremendous vocal power, she also delivers a beautifully modulated performance as Rose that captures the character's humor as well as her fierceness.
Her tour de force rendition of "Rose's Turn" is one of the most memorable this critic has ever seen. During the standing ovation that immediately followed, she acknowledged the applause fully in character, in effect incorporating the audience into Rose's elaborate fantasy.
Boyd Gaines, who has established himself as one of Broadway's most invaluable performers -- he's already won three Tonys and will no doubt be up for another for this performance -- is a wonderfully touching and dignified Herbie.
Laura Ben-anti perfectly conveys Louise's evolution from girlish innocence to womanly toughness and delivers one hell of a sexy strip routine to boot; Leigh Ann Larkin is perfect as Dainty June, and Tony Yazbeck is hugely appealing in his song-and-dance delivery of "All I Need Is the Girl." And it's doubtful that the three strippers with a gimmick have ever been played more hilariously than they are here by Alison Fraser, Lenora Nemetz and Marilyn Caskey.
Presented by Roger Berlind, the Routh/Frankel/Baruch/Viertel Group, Roy Furman, Debra Black, Ted Hartley, Roger Horchow, David Ian, Scott Rudin and Jack Viertel
Book-director: Arthur Laurents
Music: Jule Styne
Lyrics: Stephen Sondheim
Choreographer: Jerome Robbins
Set designer: James Youmans
Costume designer: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting designer: Howell Binkley
Sound designer: Dan Moses Schreier
Rose: Patti LuPone
Herbie: Boyd Gaines
Louise: Laura Benanti
Dainty June: Leigh Ann Larkin
Tulsa: Tony Yazbeck
Electra: Marilyn Caskey
Tessie Tura: Alison Fraser
Mazeppa: Lenora Nemetz