For its first show of the season Boston’s Lyric Stage, which often produces musical theatre pieces, chose Arthur Laurents’, Jule Styne’s, and Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy. Gypsy is considered by many critics, scholars, and theatre artists as one of the greatest musicals of the mid-20th century when American musical comedy turned into musical theatre, a more well-rounded genre in which the narrative and characterization were on par with the songs, where comedy could remain an integral part of the show or be dropped.
In 1959, Ethel Merman created the leading role of Mama Rose, a woman dedicated to fulfilling her dream of seeing her two daughters become show business stars, who in Merman’s version was funny, cruel, selfish, powerful, and at times loving. Her loud (and for some abrasive) mezzo-soprano voice and her belting style were inimical.
Since the original closed in 1961, Gypsy has been revived four times on Broadway with Tyne Daly, Angela Lansbury, Bernadette Peters, and Patti Lupone as the lead. Tyne Daly, Angela Lansbury, and Patti Lupone won a Tony award, while Bernadette Peters was nominated. What their performances have in common is that their interpretations are less vulgar, tough, lower class, and over the top than Merman’s.
(Continue reading » )