Theatre, West End
5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
(10user reviews)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonImelda Staunton (Momma Rose)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonLara Pulver (Louise), Imelda Staunton (Momma Rose)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonPeter Davison (Herbie), Imelda Staunton (Momma Rose)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan Persson
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonLara Pulver (Louise), Gemma Sutton (June)
 (© Johan Persson)
© Johan PerssonImelda Staunton (Momma Rose)

The Chichester Festival Theatre's wildly acclaimed, Imelda Staunton-starring Sondheim revival hits the West End.

There are moments when ‘Gypsy’ feels like a lovely indulgence. Not seen in London for 40 years, Jonathan Kent’s revival of this 1959 musical is like a collector’s loving restoration job on a beautifully-made vintage car. With a full, jazzy orchestra doing total justice to Jule Styne’s brassy score, some beautifully Gene Kelly-ish choreography, a discretely sumptuous set, clockwork stage management, and a huge cast, it purrs like a dream. Despite piercing, sardonic lyrics by the great Stephen Sondheim, there is much about ‘Gypsy’ that is old fashioned, but that’s part of its charm, a sweet ride from a more elegant age.

And then there are the moments when Imelda Staunton is on stage. To say her turn as hilarious, tragic, monstrous impresario Momma Rose is the best performance of her career somewhat belies the fact that it is usually decreed that Staunton has given the best performance of her career (see recent triumphs ‘Good People’ and ‘Sweeney Todd’). Nonetheless, this really is something else.

Staunton certainly has the lungs and the comic chops to portray the seemingly indomitable Rose as she marches her daughters – her favourite June (Gemma Sutton) and the long-suffering Louise (Lara Pulver) – around the States in a ghastly, cloying act at the fag-end of vaudeville.

But what elevates Staunton’s performance is the darkness beneath the surface: the sense of irreparable damage to her soul, the Saint Vitus’s dance of desperation she does as she resolves Louise will be her new star after June leaves her; the terrible blankness in her eyes as the prospect of earning a few extra bucks makes her forget her long-suffering paramour Herbie (a cuddly Peter Davison). If the real life Rose Hovick had been born a century later, Louis Theroux would have made a heartbreaking documentary about her; here, abetted by Sondheim and writer Arthur Laurents, Staunton finds something even more poignant, a performance that has everything to say about the toxicity of aspiration and the awful damage mothers can do to their daughters.

Louise’s abrupt late blossoming into the the burlesque superstar Gypsy Rose Lee gives the fine Pulver time to shine, but makes for a slightly wonky second half, as the focus suddenly shifts to the daughter. And the ending is a bit of a soft-hearted cop out. But none of this detracts from Staunton’s unmissable performance: ‘Gypsy’ is a splash dated, but she makes it timeless.


Average User Rating

4.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:6
  • 4 star:4
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
1 person listening

Move over Dench & Smith, Staunton  has made the grade. She uplifts Sondheim lyrics to a new level, as she did with "Sweeny Todd". The show has minor flaws, but Imelda Staunton is flawless.


Imelda Staunton is amazing in this production and it’s well worth seeing just to see her performance.  The supporting cast are also very strong.  The storyline is quite sad when you think about it, but you don’t feel unhappy at the end and you are entertained throughout.  The theatre itself is very hot so take some water with you!


A show that lives up to it's hype! I had low expectations since I prefer more modern musical scores & don't tend to enjoy revivals. However this blew me away & a large part of that was down to Imelda Staunton as Momma Rose. She is quite simply a tour de force. I didn't expect the show to be funny but with Chow mein the dog & the pantomime cow there was plenty to keep me chuckling. The whole cast were excellent & I was entertained from start to finish. Must see theatre & the standing ovation was truly earned. Our leading lady will deservedly sweep the board come awards season..


With zero expectations and not knowing what it was about, there are some milestones a west end show should hit. By the end of the first act, I was bored and confused about how bored I was. The acting was superb and Imelda Staunton really stood out and gave it her all as the overbearing mother. It definitely picked up in the second act with a couple of great numbers, and then the last song. Imelda, boy can she belt it out. That song, "Rose's turn", saved the whole show. It was because of that, we have a standing ovation. And that's how you end a west end musical.


I had been looking forward to seeing this Musical for some time as I had enjoyed the film version with Natalie Woods and have been fortunate to have seen most of Sondheim's shows live. Although I was sitting towards the back of the upper circle, I was able to see the whole stage (albeit a little bit at the front) and the acoustics were absolutely fine. I felt the cast (including a standout Imelda Staunton as Momma Rose) did a fantastic job of bringing a slice of post-depression era Americana to life and with elements we can all relate to e.g. Parents wanting the best for their children whatever the cost! Whether new or old to the World of Musical Theatre, catch this 5 star show before it closes in November!

Astonishing by Imelda Staunton in this superbly staged show. I actually felt a little sorry for the other performers all of whom were of a very high standard as I sat with most of the audience transfixed by Stauntons performance. One of the best musicals I have ever seen, and as far as the star is concerned up there with Juliet Stevenson in Happy Days, Derek Jacobi as Cyrano de Bergerac, and David Tenant as Hamlet in my list of greatest I have seen!

Staff Writer

This is one musical worth seeing contrary to so many others in the West End that are such a disappointment. Imelda Staunton completely aces it as Momma Rose and overall it was a very good performance. Only reason I don't give it a 5 start rating is that the story is a bit unnerving with the mum just forcing the kids living her dream when she should be doing that herself. This does not take away the good performance of the overall cast of course so I would def. recommend it if you’re unsure of which show to go see while in London.

Staff Writer

The childhood of American stripper Gypsy Rose Lee is what you'd call colourful. This revival of the 1959 musical by Stephen Sondheim, Jule Styne and Arthur Laurents  tells the story by making her mother the central character, played here by Imelda Staunton. There are great singers and there are great actors, but it's not often you see a performer who can do both simultaneously with this level of precision. Staunton is funny and tragic, sweet and terrifying, sensitive and monstrous. Gypsy is the ultimate story of the Tiger Mother, not such a modern phenomenon after all. This would convert anyone who says they don't like musicals.

This show is quite simply fan-tas-tic! Imelda Staunton is brilliant, the energy is contagious, and all-in-all the making of a jolly good night. 

I hate musicals and only went to accompany my mum but I was absolutely blown away by this show.  Imelda Staunton must surely win every award going.