Review – Gypsy, Savoy Theatre

Saturday 18 April 2015
  • gypsyimeldaWe’ve been waiting so long for this production, indeed any production of Gypsy (The title: a bit old school, a bit UKIP. We of course call it Traveller), we feared it couldn’t possibly live up to our expectations. Would it light our lights and hit our heights?
  • We needn’t have worried. We’re still giddy and breathless and talking with random thoughts in bullet points, plus it saves time as we’re prone to indolence.
  • Although there have been 4 Broadway revivals, it was first and last seen in London in 1973 with Dame Angela. Now we have it practically on our doorstep (unless you live in the Savoy Hotel where it is on your doorstep) with Dame (it can only be a matter of time) Imelda Staunton.
  • Andrew came of course. He cleared his decks and was so enthusiastic he even organised the tickets. It was a case of The Virgin and the Gypsy. This was Andrew’s first time he’d seen it on stage.
  • Phil had seen the Arthur Laurents (who also wrote the book) production in 1989 with Tyne Daly (who won a Tony Award when it reached Broadway) in Atlanta at the fantastic Islamic/Egyptian styled Fox Theatre in Atlanta. That production was rumoured to be heading to London. Sadly it was not to be.
  • Johnathan Kent‘s magnificent version was garlanded with superlatives when it aired at Chichester last year and now again in London – where it officially opened on Wednesday – if you want snarking and sniping look away now.
  • Staunton plays the monstrously pushy showbiz mother of legend. Momma (is it Momma or Mama?) to famous striptease artiste Gypsy Rose Lee (on whose 1957 memoirs Laurents’ book is based), stealing cutlery and children as she chases across the USA seeking stardom for her kiddies and alienating everyone around her in the process.
  • We were at the last preview, all the kids were good and we don’t know which child it was who played one of Momma’s offspring, Baby June (who in real life went on to be movie star June Havoc) but she was extraordinary. Dancing en pointe whilst singing, doing high kicks and twirling two batons gets our vote. Is there another Strallen* we’ve not been told about?
  • Anthony Ward’s designs prove that sets on trolleys can work, creating the perfect vaudeville atmosphere and fit the Savoy beautifully. It must look much better here than at the dreadful cavernous thrust of the Chichester Festival Theatre. Mark Henderson’s lighting is spot on.
  • Wonderful band. Big and brassy, just as it should be. The overture pulls you right in from the get go. Apart from those who decided to chat through it. Tsk! You know who you are.
  • The songs, of course, are terrific (music Jule Styne, lyrics Stephen Sondheim) how could Metro say it has only one hummable tune? Just how old is their critic?
  • Peter Davison plays Herbie who is press-ganged by Momma into becoming her troupe’s manager. Some have been a bit snitty about his performance. We liked him. Ok, we liked everything.
  • The Act 1 Finale: Staunton gives a roof-raising yet chilling,”Everything’s Coming Up Roses”. “That’s how to close a first act” gasped an unusually elated Andrew.
  • Not to be outdone, Louise Gold, Julie Legrand and Anita Louise Combe as three ecdysiasts (as the more show-offy critics prefer to call them) stop Act 2 with “You Gotta Get a Gimmick”. Legrand makes a remarkable transition from playing an uptight secretary earlier to the woozily seen-it-all, done-it-all Electra with the (literal) flick of a switch.
  • Momma/Mama’s other little darling, Louise goes on to be Gypsy Rose Lee. Her transition from inexperienced, nervous stripper to the one of legend is performed in a superb montage by the excellent Lara Pulver.
  • And if Staunton’s hypnotic last number, “Rose’s Turn” where she shows desperation, vulnerability, sheer showbiz brazenness and more doesn’t leave you believing she’s the best thing on a London stage then there really must be something wrong with you.
  • Is there anything Staunton can’t do? Perhaps when she receives her 4th Olivier next year she can also provide a barnstorming finale to the awards: warbling a Simon and Garfunkel hit with another stage diva whilst discarding her neckwear with insouciance and providing her own backing on the harmonica. No doubt she could even pull that off without making us watch through our fingers in embarrassment.
  • We cheered shamelessly at the end of a couple of numbers. Heck, we even ovated at the curtain call.
  • Oh did we mention there’s a tap dancing cow? Every show should have one.
  • Just go!

*Barefaced plug for tomorrow night’s UNWRAPPED – May Contain Strallens & Musical Nuts. Let’s just say we have an interest.








7 Responses to “Review – Gypsy, Savoy Theatre”

  1. webcowgirl Says:

    Two standing ovations on Thursday which just goes to show you it’s not due to Americans in the audience. I have already booked a return visit only this time in the front row, which seems reasonably priced for the value delivered.

  2. seejaybe Says:

    A wonderful show in every respect – but ‘they’ chatted through the Overture on second night too. Don’t audiences know anything about theatre etiquette? Such behaviour really is to be deplored. Let’s hope this is not a sign of things to come in the West End. One can ‘shush’ the nearest perpetrators, but what be done when virtually the whole audience is guilty of such disrespect to their fellow theatre-goers and the brilliant band? Perhaps a programme note might help?

  3. Phil Dale Says:

    Imelda Staunton gives the most extraordinary musical theatre performance I have ever seen. She is, quite simply, a genius.

  4. […] for the Savoy transfer came through (I’m a fan but not enough to go to Chichester). But BOY the West End Whingers were just bubbling all over themselves about this one (“Everything’s coming up roses .. […]

  5. Sharon Cutworth Says:

    I was there on Saturday and unfortunately the audiences were no better behaved. Strangely, I found the talking to be worse during the entr’acte than the overture. I also sat next to a woman who started to sing whenever she encountered a melody she knew (and God knows there are plenty of recognisable tunes in Gypsy). I was extremely proud of myself not to have resorted to physical violence.

  6. sue Says:

    At least I am not the only one who wants to gag the audience, the only thing I hate about live theatre is the live audience!
    I can only add to the other superlatives that have already been given.
    Imelda Staunton is completely and utterly amazing, believable and will walk away with all the west end awards this year. I shed a tear at the end.

  7. Mark Says:

    As far as the punter who sang goes, the night I was there the guy next to me started to conduct – very badly – the entr’acte whilst an elderly man behind me quavered his way through the songs he knew. Oh and of course everyone else talked during the overture

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