Friday, October 23, 2015

Way back in the spring, Assistant Director on the fringe show Liz emailed about something or other saying she'd been in London and been to see a show called Gypsy and it was wonderful. At the time, I felt that shameful vague irritation that comes (I hope) to any director when you try to talk to them about a show that isn't theirs. In hindsight, I'm glad she took the chance.

For we saw the aforementioned Gypsy at the weekend. Saturday night in the Savoy Theatre. And my lord, it was wonderful. 

I was expecting nothing. I knew it featured Imelda Staunton but (foolishly) this didn't make my heart race. It has a terrible vaguely politically incorrect title. These days, you must say Gypsy Traveller. It featured lyrics by Stephen Sondheim which should warrant some joy at least given my recent related euphoria but even that didn't whet my appetite particularly. A dubious subject. And I'm not a big fan of the Savoy - hark at me. A strange squashed flat theatre with what feels like a pokey stage. An inauspicious start to a night. 

Curtain up to a pack of children mid-variety show routines and we are in a world of music halls and vaudeville and wistful touring optimism, seeking always seeking The Big Break. Imelda / Rose has two daughters, the product of three discarded husbands, has fashioned an (awful) song and dance routine for them. Only the younger blonde one of the pair (wicked June) has any (debatable) talent. The dark haired sister, Louise, is bookish and bashful. Rose picks up some other urchins along the way and fashions them into a boisterous little vaudeville act. And they circle low grade venues in small town America with not enough food and not enough money in perpetual hope. 

Then the kids grow up. But Imelda can't move on. She continues to treat them as her babies, continues to keep them locked up in solitary confinement when they're not on stage and continues to rove about the country in hope. Until it all disintegrates. 

The songs - the lyrics - are glorious. I've decided that what Stephen S is good at is wistfulness. More songs about wishing life was other than it is. And if you're being really smart, I wonder if the show is a glorious metaphor for the American Dream. 

But the best surprise is the hideous cringe-inducing shrieked or even cater wailed opening number, "May we entertain you" (imagine a 12 year old hollering this), delivered with vigour and vim by the enthusiastic blonde daughter in pink sparkles as the show opens, also becomes the closing number. "Let me entertain you" purrs Gypsy Rose Lee when she has simultaneously hit the heady heights of stardom, sold out and fallen resoundingly from grace, all at the same wonderfully ironic time. 

The casting is excellent. I wanted to punch June, both the young and the grown versions. Imelda is incredible. I could watch / listen to her song of disintegrated defeat over and over. I think we got Peter Davidson as her love interest. It looked eerily like him and he's certainly billed as part of the production. But there was a cunning TV screen in the bar listing the last minute substitutes for indisposed cast members so I wouldn't stake my life on it. Whether or not it was him, he was very wonderful too. I think we had a very new Louise in the role. She appeared to have been June until very recently and graduated that very week to Louise if twitter is accurate. She was adorable and gawky and then ravishing and self-composed. And the kids were unbearably irritating. Not quite Matilda-type parts but they must be fun. 

I'm surprised that the show isn't done more often. It's been a reasonably short run by the standards of a West End musical - though it did come to London from a run in Chichester. But then I'm not surprised as there can't be very many Roses in the world and the kids make it complicated. (As must the dog. Apparently, Imelda started out using her own dog - but abandoned this plan after a while. Maybe the dog became too demanding off stage as the attention was going to its head.) It's an absolutely cracking show and I salute Liz for getting me there.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

I know that one show is barely out of the way but I'm really excited about this little (or not so little) chap. With thanks to David and Emma for extreme advance organisation.

Coming soon.