Tuesday, April 1, 2008



Book by Arthur Laurents, Music by Julie Stine, Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Directed by Arthur Laurents. (CLOSED)

When the lowest grade a show gets is a B-, you can be sure that its cup runneth over with critical acclaim and enthusiasm. If there were an A+++ rating, we'd have to assign it to Adam Feldman's review in Time Out, where his love of the musical on every level (writing, directing and performance) shines through. Shockingly for a show that's normally a star vehicle for whoever is playing Momma Rose—in this case, Patti LuPone—there's plenty of huzzahs left over for the supporting cast. The closest to a negative review the show is from New York Magazine's Jeremy McCarter, who confesses "of all the canonical musicals, this one leaves me coldest." Note: A few reviews are missing because they covered the earlier City Center Encores series production, not the Broadway version. While they are quite similar, we consider them distinct enough (especially since the Times' Ben Brantley did a 180 on his opinion of the show) to leave them out.

Time Out NY A+
(Adam Feldman) Wow. Wow. Wow. The Broadway revival of Gypsy, starring the astonishing Patti LuPone, has now arrived at the—wow—at the St. James Theatre, and from the moment the—wow. Sorry, but: wow. There are times when a critic can calmly analyze the assets and demerits of a production; and there are other times, thrilling and rare, when a show slaps the sense clean out of him, and when the proper reaction is awe, delight and gratitude. This Gypsy is a stunner: an achievement that no one who loves musicals, no one who loves theater, no one at all should miss.

NY Times A+
(Ben Brantley) A great Momma Rose is usually enough for a thoroughly compelling Gypsy. But this one has so much more. Mr. Laurents and his cast have applied the same careful analysis to all the major characters. As a result we become newly sensitized to Gypsy as a sad story of colliding desires, of people within an extended family vainly longing for love, for security, for recognition from one another. And this production makes us painfully aware of the toll exacted by repeatedly missed connections.

NY Daily News A
(Joe Dziemianowicz) Momma Rose, the stage mother from hell at the center of Gypsy, obsesses about dreams. She mentions them about 30 times. It's fitting that the revival of the backstage classic at the St. James Theatre starring Patti LuPone has the stuff Broadway dreams are made of: an electrifying leading lady and bangup supporting cast (kids included), making good on the show's implicit vow to entertain you and make you smile.

Associated Press A
(Michael Kuchwara) Gypsy has been a regular visitor to Broadway in the nearly 50 years since it first opened there in 1959 with Ethel Merman as Rose. Actresses as different and distinct as Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Linda Lavin and Bernadette Peters have taken on the role. LuPone is a more-than-worthy successor, doing glorious and equal justice to both story and song.

NJ Star-Ledger A
(Michael Sommers) Gangway world, get off of her runway -- Patti LuPone pulls out all the stops in her thrilling performance as the fearsome stage mama Rose in Gypsy and sets the Tony Award bar extremely high for every other leading lady on Broadway. From its pulse-racing overture to its knockout finale, Gypsy is one those great, glorious musicals that can be enjoyed repeatedly thanks to its tremendous score, compelling showbiz story and splendid opportunities for front-rank artists to strut their stuff.

The New Yorker A
(John Lahr) This dynamic production is a conclusive answer to the British director Sam Mendes’s lethargic, miscast 2003 revival. “I thought Sam did a terrible disservice to Bernadette and the play,” Laurents has said. “I wanted a Gypsy seen in New York that was good.” His version puts an American sizzle back into the score and into the musical’s dramatic stakes.

Variety A-
(David Rooney) Everyone remembers a great musical by its songs, but the key to a really great musical, and arguably the hardest part to get right, is the book. It needs to feed the narrative and develop the characters and their relationships without decelerating the momentum, leaving you tapping your foot impatiently waiting for the orchestra to spark up again. Watching Arthur Laurents' riveting revival of the show he wrote and premiered in 1959, it's clear that Gypsy has the dramatic vertebrae of a superior species. This is not your everyday canned tuner; in this production it's an incisively acted musical play with as much emotional resonance as showbiz pizzazz.

Village Voice B+
(Michael Feingold) Demonstrates the work's sturdiness by, at times, pushing so hard against it that a less sturdily built object would topple over...The three leads, miraculously, have slipped out from under Laurents's hard-edged insistence...Patti LuPone has enriched and refocused her performance till it actually deserves some of the torrents of gush the press has poured over her...Even so, Laurents rides her psychopathy into overemphasis.

LA Times B
(Charles McNulty) What distinguishes LuPone’s accomplishment is the fiery fusion of music and drama that she pulls off with seemingly spontaneous expressiveness....Laurents... isn’t always adept at handling the tale he so creatively derived from the memoirs of burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. The storytelling is rather choppy in the first half. LuPone’s scene with Pop (Bill Raymond), her naysaying dad, who won’t give her the 88 bucks she needs to get her kids on the Orpheum Circuit, strangely misfires until she starts singing “Some People,” the anthem decrying ordinary oblivion as a form of death.

USA Today B
(Elysa Gardner) Laurents, of course, also wrote the libretto for this classic show, based on burlesque icon Gypsy Rose Lee's account of the relentless mom who tried to make her a child star. And in revisiting it, he clearly is determined to convert those who would dismiss the old-school musical as escapist fluff. This Gypsy is as serious as a heart attack, and about as subtle.

New York Magazine B-
(Jeremy McCarter) At the St. James, Patti LuPone sings with force and poise. She flits from high and operatic one moment to low and torchy the next, to the delight of her voluble fans. But her charm works against her, as she loses a little of the vulgarity that makes Rose the vaudeville answer to Richard III and that might have—just maybe—made the whole evening as fascinating as Benanti’s performance.

TONY A+ 14; NYTimes A+ 14; NY Daily News A 13; Associated Press A 13; NJ Star-Ledger A 13; New Yorker A 13; Variety A- 12; Village Voice B+ 11; LA Times B 10; USA Today B 10; NYMag B- 9; TOTAL = 132 / 11 = 12 = A-

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