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RISE & SHINE BROADWAY FANS!! It’s 39 DAYS AWAY till Broadway’s biggest night of the year…. The 74th Annual Tony Awards. Our TOP 50 TONY AWARDS COUNTDOWN continues with more Broadway powerhouse performances from the past telecasts. Seriously, this is getting our anticipation in the air and also celebrating the return of Live Theater to the Great Bright Way.
At # 39 on the countdown, we have one of the most iconic musicals ever written. It follows the story of one of the craziest, bossiest, and no nonsense stage mothers of all time…. “Rose Thompson Hovick” (aka “Mama Rose”). We are talking about GYPSY!!! Based on a memoir by Rose Louise Hovick (aka Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous Vaudeville stripper in the world), the show features a score by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents.
From the 2008 telecast, Tony winners Patti LuPone as “Mama Rose”, Laura Benanti as “Louise”, and Boyd Gaines as “Herbie” from that year’s recent Broadway revival brings down the house with a roof-shaking performance of one of the musical’s signature tunes EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES.
GYPSY originally was conceived as a project by producer David Merrick and written for Ethel Merman after reading Gypsy Rose Lee’s memoir. After being fascinated by a certain chapter, he approached Lee in obtaining the rights to adapt her story into a stage musical. With book writer Arthur Laurents and composer Stephen Sondheim (following the success of West Side Story) and hiring Jule Styne (by Merman’s request) and a rocky struggle with finding more people, the team began work on the show.
GYPSY originally premiered on Broadway in 1959 at the Broadway Theatre (and later transferred to the Imperial Theatre) for 2 previews and 702 performances. Under the direction and choreography of Jerome Robbins, the original production starred….
the legendary first belter of Musical Theatre, Ethel Merman, as “Mama Rose”
Sandra Church (later Julienne Marie) as “Louise”,
Lane Bradbury as “June”,
And
Jack Klugman as “Herbie.”
It was nominated for 8 Tony Awards in 1960 including BEST MUSICAL, but lost all of its categories.
Following the success of the original Broadway run, GYPSY went on to tour across America and around the world. The show was later revived on Broadway four times.
It first debuted in London’s West End in 1974. Due to its overwhelming success, the production transferred overseas touring North America and then eventually made its way to Broadway. It played the Winter Garden Theatre for a limited run of 4 previews and 124 regular performances. Under the direction of Arthur Laurents and choreographed by Robert Tucker (still playing tribute to Jerome Robbins staging), the first revival starred…
the legendary Dame Angela Lansbury as “Mama Rose,”
Zan Charisse as “Louise,”
Maureen Moore as “June”,
and
Rex Robbinson as “Herbie.”
It was nominated for 3 Tony Awards in 1975 winning only 1 for BEST LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL (for Angela Lansbury).
The second Broadway revival happened in 1989. Following a brief pre-Broadway tour across America, this production played the St. James Theatre (and later transferring to the Marquis Theatre) for 35 previews and 582 regular performances. Under the direction once again by Arthur Laurents and the choreography re-staged by Bonnie Walker, the cast featured…
Tyne Daly (later Linda Lavin) as “Mama Rose,”
Crista Moore as “Louise,”
Tracy Venner as “June”,
and
Jonathan Hadary (later Jamie Ross) as “Herbie.”
It was nominated for 4 Tony Awards in 1990, winning 2 for BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL and BEST LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL (for Tyne Daly).
The third Broadway revival happened in 2003 playing the Shubert Theatre for 33 previews and 451 regular performances. Under the direction of Sam Mendes and choreography by Jerry Mitchell, this cast starred…
Bernadette Peters (who previously appeared as “Baby June” in the original production’s first National Tour and later temporary Maureen Moore) taking on the role of “Mama Rose”,,
Tammy Blanchard as “Louise,”
Kate Reinders as “June”,
and
John Dossett as “Herbie.”
It was nominated for 4 Tony Awards that same year including BEST REVIVAL OF A MUSICAL and BEST LEADING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL (for Bernadette Peters). However, it lost all the categories.
The most recent Broadway revival of GYPSY happened in 2008. Following a triumphant Summer engagement at New York City Center part of its ENCORES season. The show returned to the St. James Theatre for 27 previews and 332 regular performances. Under the direction once again by Arthur Laurents and choreography re-staged by Bonnie Walker, the cast starred….
Patti LuPone as “Mama Rose”,
Laura Benanti as “Louise”,
Leigh Ann Larkin as “June”,
and
Boyd Gaines as “Herbie”.
This revival was nominated for 7 Tony Awards winning 3 for BEST LEADING ACTRESS, BEST FEATURED ACTOR, and BEST FEATURED ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL (for Patti LuPone, Boyd Gaines, and Laura Benanti).
FUN FACT: That most recent revival was well known for a little onstage drama that happened on the second-to-last night before it closed. At the January 10th, 2009 evening performance during the show’s finale number ROSE’S TURN, a pair of audience members were taking flashed photographs which is completely illegal at a Broadway show. The flashes almost caused LuPone to trip before knowing that ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!!! She stopped the show, went out into the audience, screamed at the illegal photographers, and kicked them out. From there, she started the number all over. Someone at the same time sneaked audio of that incident, which went viral on YouTube.
GYPSY was previously rumored to return to Broadway with a fifth revival based on its recent 2016 West End production that swept the Olivier Awards. It was set to star Imelda Staunton as “Mama Rose”. However, nothing ever came of it.
GYPSY continues to be a popular musical done in schools, community, and regional theaters around the world.
Not only was this show a smash on stage, GYPSY was captured on film 3 TIMES!!!
The original film was released in 1962 from Warner Bros. Pictures. Under the direction of Mervin LeRoy, the cast was led by….
Rosalind Russell as “Mama Rose”,
Natalie Wood as “Louise”,
Ann Jillian as “June”,
and
Carl Madden as “Herbie”.
That original film was a huge box office success. It was nominated for various Awards including 3 Academy Awards and 6 Golden Globes (winning only 1 for BEST ACTRESS IN A MOTION PICTURE – COMEDY OR MUSICAL (for Rosalind Russell).
GYPSY’s 2nd screen makeover happened in 1993 as a film-for TV musical. Under the direction of Emile Ardolino, the cast was led by….
Bette Midler as “Mama Rose”,
Cynthia Gibb as “Louise”,
Jennifer Rae Beck as “June”,
And
Peter Riegert as “Herbie”.
Also earning critical praise, this TV movie was nominated for various Awards including 12 Emmy Awards (winning 1 for OUTSTANDING INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT IN MUSIC DIRECTION) and several Golden Globes (winning several including BEST ACTRESS IN A MINISERIES OR TV FILM for (Bette Midler).
The most recently captured presentation was a filmed performance of the 2016 West End revival (that was rumored to come to Broadway). It aired originally in the UK before later debuting here in the States on PBS’ Award winning Great Performances. Under the direction of Jonathan Kent, the cast was led by…
Imelda Staunton as “Mama Rose”,
Lara Pulver as “Louise”,
Gemma Sutton as “June”,
And
Peter Davison as “Herbie”.
GYPSY is truly the ultimate love letter to show business!!
Doesn’t this musical make you wanna shout “SING OUT LOUISE”??!!!
Mike Haber
Author: Mike Haber

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