GYPSY Turns Sixty!

Welcome to a new Musical Theatre Monday! This month, we’re celebrating the 60th anniversary of the great Jule Styne-Stephen Sondheim musical, Gypsy, which opened on Broadway on May 21, 1959! A classic show built for a diva — Ethel Merman — there have been many memorable productions with strong Roses over the years. And a lot of these productions have spawned delightful bootleg audios, offering us theatre nerds a chance to hear a multitude of mamas — everyone from Angela Lansbury to Joyce DeWitt (no, I’m not kidding).

So, there’s a lot that I could share here in this week’s post, but in an effort to keep things simple, I’m going to highlight three of my favorites — and, as always, for subscribers with no commercial designs on this material whatsoever who comment below to alert me of their interest, I’ll be happy to send them to you for your critical and scholastic pleasure… We start, of course, with the original and this blog’s patron saint herself, Ethel Merman, in an audio from her closing night performance — March 25, 1961. Here’s her “Rose’s Turn.”

And then there’s Lansbury, who played the role in London in 1973 (where she recorded the score — my second favorite album after the original OBC with Merman), and then on Broadway in 1974. This is her “Rose’s Turn” from a soundboard taken from the latter production. (It’s speculated that this may be closing night — January 04, 1975).

Now, there are a lot of other Roses I could also praise — Dolores Gray, Tyne Daly, Linda Lavin, Lorna Luft, Betty Buckley, Patti LuPone, the list goes on… but I gotta say, I appreciate Bernadette Peters. This revival also released a cast album, but her new take on the role divided theatergoers because she dared to actually have a new take — which was refreshing… if not ideal. Here’s her “Rose’s Turn” — from May 01, 2003: opening night. Enjoy!

 

 

Come back next month for more Musical Theatre rarities! And stay tuned tomorrow for more Raymond!

22 thoughts on “GYPSY Turns Sixty!

  1. I’ve seen Bernadette Peters in concert and what a voice coming out of that tiny body. I can only imagine seeing Ethel & Angela in person. Please, send me a link to those shows. As always, thanks for digging these gems up for us.

  2. Gypsy was the first show I was in! I was too tall to be a Newsboy, and too young to be one of the older boys, but the director wanted to give me a chance, so I was just in the Farmboy number. It changed my life forever. I worked steadily in Theatre for the next 30 years. I even went on to play Tulsa! Gypsy is still my all time favorite musical 54 years later! Thanks for the memories, Jackson!

  3. Amazing! Is there any chance you could send me the full Ethel Merman tape? And do you have a full recording of Dolores Gray? If so, I’d love to hear that! Thanks so much!

    • Hi, Shawn! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I do have an audio with Gray — maybe fodder for a future post. In the meantime, I have emailed you at your gmail address.

  4. Hi Jackson. This is such an interesting subject because “Gypsy” is truly one of the most iconic Broadway musicals that one can easily forget that it’s based on the real life story of Gypsy Rose Lee, who interviewed Ethel Merman for her talk show in 1967. Talk about the ultimate meta moment. Do you know what the real-life Gypsy Rose Lee and June Havoc thought about “Gypsy”? Also, do you think there is any truth to the rumor that Ethel Merman was cast in “It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World” as a consolation prize for not playing Rose in the movie version? Thanks, Raul J.

    • Hi, Raul! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Lee participated in the original production of GYPSY and seemed to enjoy it. Havoc was allegedly not pleased about *her* portrayal — apparently one of the reasons for the sisters’ ongoing estrangement.

      As for the role in IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD, I’m not sure it was a consolation prize, but Merman certainly was available.

      Let me know if you’d like access to the above audios.

  5. Would love to hear more of these recordings. Gypsy is my favorite show. I do enjoy Bernadette Peters in this role. I read a book “Mama Rose’s Turn” by Carolyn Quinn, and I think she portrayed a Rose not far from the personality described in the book. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Oh I would love Merman and if you have it Lansbury in Gypsy. I assume you have seen the footage from Lansbury’s run? Just delightful.

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