Wed Apr 2 2008
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5
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.
Arthur Laurents, Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's 1959 masterpiece, based on the life of superstar stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, is the kind of show that makes hyperbole come true: It begins with one of the greatest overtures in Broadway history, and goes uphill from there. This production, directed by Laurents himself in a heightened style, delivers on all counts. It has the vim, guts and humor of a classic Broadway musical, artfully darkened by irony and psychological shading; it has a superb supporting cast, led by the impeccable Laura Benanti as Louise, the tomboy turned sexpot, and Boyd Gaines as Herbie, her doormat of an agent; and above all it has LuPone as Rose, the ferociously ambitious stage mother who domineers Gypsy from start to finish. This is the King Lear of musical-theater roles, and she inhabits it with breathtaking fullness and complexity. LuPone is giving the performance of a lifetime here: not just her lifetime, but Rose's, and those of many in the audience as well. When she takes her bows—to earthshaking applause—it is as though the golden age of Broadway vitality were taking its curtain call. See Gypsy now. We may never see its like again.