I’m an Imelda Staunton fan, so I’d already had a pair of tickets for this show in my hot little hand (courtesy of Santa Claus) for some time before the reviews 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 .. and daffodils!”) and I knew any moment now “it’s gonna be my turn” and I couldn’t wait. I’d only ever seen Bette Midler’s version (on TV) and I really, really was hoping for something amazing.
And, really, that’s what I got. The stage was frequently teeny tiny, a little rotating flip capturing a sideways glance of where things were happening .. but then it opened up in the horrible scenes set in old vaudeville houses. I started off fighting it a bit – the young Baby June was grating (and tinnily miked) and I was glad to see the end of the child actor scenes even though they did get progressively camper as the evening went on.
Songwise, it’s almost unfair to have so many standards jammed in one show – you’re not getting that with modern musicals, that’s for sure – and the emotional ride of Rose’s relationship with the manager Herbie (Peter Davison), and the heartbreak and disappointment when she breaks her last promise to him … Gypsy herself (Lara Pulver) in the shadows for most of the evening, because, really the show isn’t about her anyway … I saw that this time, the fact that I thought it _was_ about her was my mistake, she was just the cherry on top of the cake, but not the cake at all. And oh, the brilliant laughs of the old strippers in “You Gotta Get a Gimmick …” so funny! By this time we were all just riding the wave of the story, the inevitability of Gypsy’s “fall,” which suddenly was (again) about her mother, the most horrible relationship ever, and as the stage finally utterly transformed itself for Mama Rose’s last big number, like something right out of the movie version of Chicago, so big you almost couldn’t believe it was on stage, there was little Imelda belting it out, surrounded by glittering lights … breaking our hearts. It wasn’t the end of the show, but we jumped out of out seats and applauded. It was all just so intense. Everything came up roses, roses covered with thorns, and we (and she) held on to them tight, the blood pouring down and the smile fixed on her face. My God, what a night. I nearly immediately broke all of my promises to stick to cheaper seats and went and got a pair of tickets in the front row so I could see it again but this time from a place where I could see the sweat beading on their faces as every single actor busted their chops to make it awesome for us. Yes, it was that good. Don’t miss it.
(This review is for a performance that took place on Thursday, April 16th, 2015. It’s on until October.)