Magazine article The Sondheim Review

No Gimmicks Required

Magazine article The Sondheim Review

No Gimmicks Required

Article excerpt

Laurents and LuPone team for memorable Gypsy

I used to have three of those oh-so-rare moments in the theatre when time stops, you don't seem to breathe, and the only thing you are aware of is the performance happening in front of you. They were the original Broadway renditions of "A Weekend in the Country," "A Little Priest" and "Sunday." Each was a perfect storm of performance, material and stagecraft. No matter how fleeting, they were indelibly imprinted on my memory. I still get chills remembering them. Now I have four.

Patti LuPone's performance of "Rose's Turn" in the New York City Center revival of Gypsy in July 2007 was nothing short of transcendent. Over the years I've seen Rose after Rose (Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Bette Midler, Betty Buckley, Bernadette Peters), but none of them found the depth and complexity LuPone brought to the role. Taking nothing away from each of these unique performances, LuPone, under the sublime direction of book writer Arthur Laurents, found the soul of Rose. Where others have created quintessential stage-mother monsters, LuPone's multilayered performance was the most psychologically developed and, in some ways, grounded portrayal of a woman with whom we could actually empathize. She was in excellent voice, and the integration of character into each of the familiar numbers made us hear them anew.

Perhaps, too, LuPone gave us a Rose for our more sophisticated times. Though Gypsy chronicles Rose and her girls struggling through the death of vaudeville in the 1920s until Gypsy Rose Lee emerged as Minsky's biggest star in 1931, the story could just as easily play out today. Our culture's current fascination with stardom and the lengths people will go to be famous provides tons of popular entertainment. Rose doesn't seem so desperate in this context.

In fact, LuPone was a Rose who for the first time made sense as the center - and prime catalyst - of the chaos represented by her dysfunctional family. Her Rose wasn't just an irresistible force, bulldozing anything in her path. She was a woman motivated by her own thwarted ambition, yet a loving person in her own highly fallible way. A slight glance of pain crossed her face when she saw how she had marginalized young Louise. …

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