Gypsy at The Savoy Theatre
There has been a lot of hype about Gypsy so I decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about and check that it lived up to the 5 star reviews it obtained across the board.
Gypsy is a classic musical which dates back to the golden age of musicals and actually opened on Broadway the same year as ‘The Sound of Music (1959). It also stands out amongst the current crop of modern musicals playing in the West End and opened 24 years earlier that it’s closest current counterpart (Les Miserables). It is one that I have never seen before (it was last on in the West End in the 1970’s) and one that amateurs seem to steer clear of.
The show is loosely based on the life of Gypsy Rose Lee and focuses on the relationship between the famous striptease artist and her mother, Rose.
It is the character of Rose that is the driving force behind this show and Imelda Staunton is a tour de force in this part. The part is a fabulously written 3 dimensional character that you root for, a driven mother who loves her children yet in the same breath she is the ultimate stage mother who pushes her children away in her hunger for success. Imelda Staunton portrays all this and more and her final number ‘Rose’s turn’ ensured her standing ovation. I could not take my eyes off her whenever she was on stage and her final scene with Louise bringing a lump to my throat speaks volumes as to what she has done with the part. Surely Staunton must get at least an Olivier nomination for her turn as Rose and in my opinion they will be hard pressed (dare I say nearly impossible) to find a more worthy winner.
The cast around her are also very strong. Playing Louise Lara Pulver undergoes a transformation in front of your eyes, from the sky gawky teenager you watch dancing and pining over Tulsa in ‘All I Need is That Girl,’ to the star oozing sass and sensuality in ‘Let Me Entertain You.’
Tulsa, played by Dan Burton makes an impact with his number also and you can see how Louise is in love with him as his charisma and dance ability is clear to see. The rest of the cast do not let this show down. Whilst Herbie played by Peter Davison may not be in the same league as Imedla Staunton or Lara Pulver for the vocals or Dan Burton for dance, he more than makes up for this with his genuine likeability as Herbie. You can visible see that the idea of Louise stripping has made him ill and you melt when Louise appears to accept him as a father figure rather than just an agent. The baby June and Louise are also perfect and baby June with her irritating squealing and dropping into splits every 2 seconds is perfectly pitched for this part.
It however isn’t just the talent on stage that makes this show a hit. The stage itself is set as if we are watching a vaudeville show with footlights and changing posters on the proscenium adding a nice touch. The direction itself is perfectly pitched with scenes such as the crowd gathering to watch Louise make her first entrance as Gypsy Rose Lee is beautiful to watch and the change from baby June and Louise to the older family is very clever and got a round of applause.
I started this by saying that this is an older musical, but at no time does it feel old fashioned. The key themes here of mother daughter relationships and success are as still as relevant now as they were in the 1950’s and this is a great production to bring Gypsy to a new era of theatre lovers. I would encourage the younger generation to see the show, if for nothing more than to witness one of the greats portray a part that it seems she was born to play.