Any new arrival in the West End is a big deal for a theatre fan, whether it’s a brand new show or a returning favourite. But today’s announcement that Gypsy will be coming to the Savoy Theatre for a limited run from March 2015 is more exciting than most.
For starters, the show hasn’t been performed in London for 40 years; the last time was long before I was born, in 1974. In contrast, since it first opened in 1959, the show’s had at least four Broadway revivals, the most recent of which was in 2008, starring Patti LuPone. It seems a bit unfair that New York should have all the fun, so it’s great that a new generation of theatre fans will finally have the chance to enjoy Gypsy here in London.
Secondly, I’m so excited by the news that the London West End revival of Gypsy will star Imelda Staunton, as the pushy Momma Rose. A couple of years back, I saw her brilliant performance opposite Michael Ball in Sweeney Todd, and have been hoping to see her back on stage ever since. Never having seen Gypsy, I’m not an expert, but I can imagine that Staunton’s perfect for this feisty, determined, and yet at times vulnerable character. She has some big shoes to fill – previous actresses to take on the role include Ethel Merman, Bette Midler and Angela Lansbury - but the reviews so far, from the show’s recent run at the Chichester Festival Theatre, have been amazing. And never having seen Staunton give a bad performance, on stage or screen, I have every faith she’ll be fantastic.
The show is based on the memoirs of famous American burlesque entertainer, Gypsy Rose Lee – one of Momma Rose’s daughters. It charts both her transformation from shy child performer to confident burlesque star, and the simultaneous decline of her relationship with her overbearing mother. Although it’s set in the 1920's, in many respects the story is just as relevant today as it ever was; there’ll always be pushy parents in the world, trying to live through their children’s successes, and forgetting to get on with their own lives in the process.
With music by Jules Styne (who brought us classic numbers like ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade’ and ‘Diamonds Are A Girl’s Best Friend’) and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim (need I say more?), I’ve no doubt that Gypsy will be a fantastic addition to London’s West End this year. But with 40 years of anticipation, and less than four months on stage, Gypsy tickets are likely to get snapped up fast! I for one won’t be hanging around!