I had the good fortune to see the very exciting first preview of Gypsy with Patti Lupone tonight. What a show! I was in the top balcony and didn't have binoculars, unfortunately, but here's my review:
I loved having the orchestra on the stage and visible during the overture. It really bothers me when people think that the overture is the time to talk to other people, make last minute phone calls, loudly unwrap candies ... this staging definitely made the orchestra part of the show, and people were silent and riveted (and cheering after the trumpet solo!).
The kids: I missed Clarence's clarinet, but Vladimir's violin was very funny! Nice that they cast a kid who could already play an instrument and used that instrument. Baby June and Baby Louise were just perfect for their roles. Baby Louise looked perfect, even her physical stance was perfect for the part. I LOVED the fact that she "couldn't" do the bell kicks properly (I bet she's actually a great dancer) - that got an extra laugh. Baby June was also amazing. How old is that girl? I had heard from Kim Ryan that she did the role on pointe, and I was looking forward to seeing that. Well - she does everything! And it's just right. She is probably the most capable and ideal Baby June I've ever seen. My only problem with the kids (and this is not their fault) was that during their few lines, it was a bit hard to hear them sometimes. If their speaking voices were soft, like Louise's (as is appropriate for the role), the mics could have been turned up just the slightest bit more. I expect that's something that will be changed in previews.
Tulsa was great but not my favorite, vocally. My favorite Tulsa sings on the cast recording with Tyne Daly (who is NOT my favorite Rose!). There's not much to the role beyond his one big dance scene, and from so far away, it really was just a dance scene, but he did a good job. I could barely see facial expressions from where I was sitting.
Herbie -- poor guy really doesn't get the recognition he deserves, simply because the show is ABOUT ROSE! He was excellent, really nice singing (what little he does) and GREAT scene at the end when he explodes and finally leaves for good. His chemistry with Rose was right on, and you could see how the two characters got along and stood by each other for so long.
The Strippers: HILARIOUS! There was a lesson to be learned from Elektra: sometimes less is more. It was completely unexpected and so funny! These characters are always showstoppers, but the nuances in this version were really something else.
Dainty June: I LOVED her. I have never seen June played this way. She had a very low speaking voice, and her anger was right there on the surface, gritty and hostile. The contrast between the real June we saw backstage and the "Dainty June" we saw in her act was just priceless. I believe there is a youtube video of her "If Mamma Was Married," and I suggest you watch it!
Gypsy: I also loved her. She was perfect in Little Lamb, a song easily ruined by many great Gypsys! But she was also an excellent belter and didn't have the coarseness in her voice that I've heard in other Gypsys. Her transition from the quiet untalented nobody to the star was very well done and believable too -- she made me think a lot more about her character, as did June. The chemistry between the two sisters was also very interesting: quite a bit of hostility, and the line "Did you ever feel like you didn't have a sister?" made a lot of sense.
The Cow: WOW! I don't know when I've laughed that hard. Louise's "moo moo moo moo"s were soooooo funny!
Rose: WOW. I love Patti Lupone, so I'm biased. But I've been saying since I was 13 and first heard her recording of Evita that she needed to play Mama Rose. Finally she is doing it! She was really fabulous, and brought a slightly manic quality, at times, that really showed Rose's drive and her stubbornness and inability to see beyond her "dream" to the life she is actually living. She was just 100% Rose. I loved her. I think she IS Rose. I was also amused by her extremely tall heels! How tall is she? (If anyone else is a Patti fan, look up her name and "A New Argentina" on youtube to see her incredible performance nearly 30 years ago.)
Of course there was applause at her first entrance, and she had to stop and wait until it finished. More applause for Herbie, the strippers, the strobe scene where the kids grow up. It was really great to be in the audience for this night - the audience was so much a PART of it, so exuberant and wanting to love the show (which we did)!
Also, each character was so specific and nuanced, going far beyond the "stock" characters that I've often seen in Gypsy. Different isn't always better, but in some cases (particularly June and Elektra), it truly was. There were so many little moments that were just hilarious! In particular, Rose's repeated "I had a dream" and Louise's look and then GROAN! So funny. And many parts were truly moving -- Rose's reaction in the scene where June leaves brought tears to my eyes, and I saw the girl next to me wiping her eyes as well. You could actually see the pain Rose felt in losing her "star," which was like losing everything, and the transition as she shifted her focus, her "dream," to Louise. Same with the scene where Herbie leaves. These actors were so believable in their roles.
Sets: The sets were minimal, which I suppose they have to be in order for scene changes to not take ages. The speed of the scene changes (since this was a 3-hr show) was great. And the sets and props gave enough of a suggestion of each scene that I didn't feel like anything was missing (orphan beds? Ha!).
Now, for the non-production DRAMA:
Near the end of the show, when Rose comes to visit Gypsy in her dressing room and they have a fight, all of a sudden I heard a loud metallic CLANK to my right, then a wail. I thought someone had knocked over a metal thermos or something, and was upset about it. But that seemed strange, and people to my right started whispering. Then I looked (this was all in a split second) and there was a young woman gasping and sobbing. Someone pointed up at the ceiling of the theatre, where there was a huge hole ... where there USED to be a giant, round metal air vent about 2 feet in diameter. It had fallen about 20-30 feet from the ceiling and hit this young woman on the head!!! You can bet that was a distraction, and unfortunately this happened just before "Rose's Turn." People were whispering, calling the ushers to call 911, and looking over at the young woman to see if she was all right. She was sitting there, sobbing. The show continued, because I don't think anyone on stage noticed that anything was wrong. So during most of the beginning of Rose's turn, the entire balcony was half watching Patti onstage, and half watching the right side of the balcony.
It was scary! Finally the medics came, and someone carried away the air vent which passed right by me (I was on an aisle). A huge, round, heavy piece of metal ... that fell from the ceiling. And hot someone. Wow. People left her aisle so she could get out, while the show continued. She walked out with, I think, her dad, so she was ok enough to walk. She was gone by the middle of Rose's Turn, and we all looked back at the stage, a little shaken.
The show ended to a total standing ovation, much deserved, and many curtain calls. It was so good, even though we were distracted at the end!
When we were leaving, we passed her in the balcony entrance and the young woman was talking, so it seemed like she was ok. When I got out to the street in front of the theatre, people were talking about it a LOT -- then I passed a group and heard them say, "...yeah, the top balcony seemed kind of loud during the whole ending scene." So I told them, briefly, what had happened and why they heard noise from the top balcony. They were also shocked.
Emma's mom, if you're reading this, if anyone noticed a commotion in the balcony, this is what happened! And Emma was wonderful -- how exciting for her to be a part of this amazing show!
I highly recommend that everyone see this production if you can!
Sorry if it's not eloquent ... it's late!
This message has been edited by -Grief- from IP address 220.127.116.11 on Mar 3, 2008 9:18 PM
Posted on Mar 3, 2008, 9:17 PM from IP address 18.104.22.168