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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at City Center,New York

By Roger B. Harris

  Patti LuPonne and Boyd Gaines/Ph:Joan Marcus

Small wonder that Gypsy, the 1959 musical comedy that described how Gypsy Rose Lee, earned her bones by ditching her mom and becoming a renowned stripper with a difference, is consistently named one of the best American musicals ever written for the stage. When the book, based on the memoirs of Ms. Lee, is by Arthur Laurents, the music by Julie Styne, the words by Stephen Sondheim and the original production directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins that's Hall of Fame talent we're talking about. Oh, and another minor fact: Ethel Merman, played Mama Rose in the original production.

Now comes one Patti LuPone upon the scene to enact the role of the most famous stage monster, oops, stage mother in all of American musical stage history.(Make that world history if you exclude Medea.) Ms. LuPone is playing the indomitable Rose in the City Center 2007 Encores! Summer Stars production of Gypsy, a limited run playing through July 29.

Conventional wisdom had it that this was a role LuPone was destined to play. After all, didn't she have the pipes to match up nicely with La Merman? Forget amplification, LuPone, like Merman could reach the back of the balcony, with one vocal cord tied 'round her.... And conventional wisdom was right. Here's Mama, strutting her stuff, in this full-staged version of the musical...and she's magnificent. Yes, there are times when she seems to be speed singing the verses, have an egg roll, " Mr. Goldstone," for example. But her big emotional moment in "Rose's Turn" was all it could possibly be- and more. This meeting between actress and role was well worth the wait.

The cast assembled by director Arthur Laurents is delightful. Laura Benanti is stunning as Louise aka Miss Gypsy Rose Lee, possessor of a beautiful voice and a quiet bearing that gives no clue to the fire burning within; Boyd Gaines as Herbie, conveys just enough spinelessness to make his role as Rose's put upon boyfriend (and booking agent) believable and his leaving her believable, too; and who will ever forget the trio of grinders, Alison Fraser, Nancy Opel, and Marilyn Caskey, proud possessors each, of a "gimmick" to succeed, who bring down the house.

And speaking of the house, audiences throughout the run, have been wildly in love with the entire production--breaking into lusty cheers at the drop of a hat. But, let's face it, it's Ms. LuPone they've come to see and she doesn't disappoint. Her charisma energizes the entire auditorium. Her power and determination carry the day.


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