Starring Imelda Staunton on THIRTEEN’s Great Performances Friday, November 11 at 9 p.m. on the PBS Arts Fall Festival
Jonathan Kent‘s award-winning production of the classic musical Gypsy – a record-breaking sellout during its acclaimed London run – comes to THIRTEEN‘s Great Performances, Friday, November 11 at 9 p.m. on PBS on the PBS Arts Fall Festival. (Check local listings.) Gypsy first appeared in 1959 on Broadway under the title Gypsy: A Musical Fable.
The first London production to be seen for 40 years, the musical opened at England’s Chichester Festival Theatre before moving to the West End‘s Savoy Theatre. A London production had not been seen in the West End since 1973. This critically acclaimed West End production features Imelda Staunton as Rose (The role of Rose is often called the ‘King Lear’ of the musical theatre canon).
Following a run at the Chichester Festival Theatre, which won the Critics’ Choice Theatre Award for Best Musical in 2014, a West End revival of Gypsy opened at the Savoy Theatre on April 15, 2015, in a limited run through November 28. Directed by Jonathan Kent with choreography by Stephen Mear and set and costume design by Anthony Ward, the production starred Staunton as Rose, Peter Davison as Herbie, Lara Pulver as Louise, Gemma Sutton as June, Anita Louise Combe as Tessie Tura, Louise Gold as Mazzeppa and Julie Legrand as Electra. The London production was nominated for eight Laurence Olivier Awards at the 2016 ceremony, winning four, including Best Actress in a Musical (Staunton) and Best Musical Revival, the most awards won by a single production in that year
Gypsy is considered by many to be one of Broadway’s all-time triumphs. It tells the story of ambitious showbiz mother Rose, who treks across the country with her daughters Baby June and Louise in search of success with their homespun vaudeville act. As times change, Rose is forced to accept the demise of vaudeville and the rise of burlesque, as well as her daughters’ quest for autonomy.
With a book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show was suggested by the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee. The musical was initially a project of producer David Merrick and actress Ethel Merman (who starred as the original Rose). Merrick had read a chapter of Lee’s memoirs in Harper’s Magazine and approached Lee to obtain the rights. Jerome Robbins was interested, and wanted Leland Hayward as co-producer; (Merman also wanted Hayward to produce her next show.) Merrick and Hayward approached Laurents to write the book. As he relates, Laurents initially was not interested until he saw that the story was one of parents living their children’s lives. Composers Irving Berlin and Cole Porter declined the project. Finally, Robbins asked Stephen Sondheim, who agreed to do it. Sondheim had previously worked with Robbins and Laurents on the musical West Side Story. However, Merman did not want an unknown composer, and wanted Jule Styne to write the music. Although Sondheim initially refused to write only the lyrics, he was persuaded by Oscar Hammerstein to accept the job.
The score features songs that have since become show standards, and helped launch the career of Sondheim. “Everything’s Coming Up Roses,” “Some People,” “Let Me Entertain You,” “Together, Wherever We Go” and of course “Rose’s Turn” are among the musical highlights. Continue reading