It was my great privilege to be in the audience tonight at the delightful Savoy Theatre on London’s Strand (having transferred from Chichester in March) to witness the performance that EVERYONE is talking about.
Whilst the entire 20+ ensemble is excellent (especially Lara Pulver as Louise/Gypsy Rose Lee) it is Staunton that we were all there to see and she did not disappoint with a perfect blend of anger, pathos, humour and demented misguidedness on the path to riches for her “star” daughter June and her overshadowed and overlooked sibling Louise who metamorphoses into the world’s greatest Burlesque star ‘Gypsy Rose Lee.”
The story itself is thoroughly engaging but what Sondheim achieved in his lyrics at the tender age of 24 (I’m guessing here) is nothing short of remarkable.
Jonathan Kent, who directs, has done a great job of making Mama Rose the star of the show without denying the rest of the ensemble their moments.
In particular, in act one the series of vaudeville ‘turns’ that Mama Rose’s various troupes perform are hilarious and highly amusing variation on a theme that was never particularly good in the first place. It takes real skill to do “bad” well and the audience were eating from Kent’s hands each time.
Peter Davidson puts in a decent shift as the poor beau of mama rose, Herbie. Ok he’s no singer but he makes the most of his limited vocal range, but when called on to add emotional depth to the storyline he delivers admirably.
But really this is Staunton’s great moment in the sun. People will be talking about this performance for years. It even exceeds the brilliance of her slightly more one dimensional turn in Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd where she blew Michael Ball off the stage stealing every scene. I am privileged to have seen that too.
At the finale after a breathtaking rendition of Rose’s Turn that had the audience gasping the entire auditorium leaped to its feet. I have never, ever seen that at a professional theatre production.
Imelda you area goddess of the stage.
Thank you so much for tonight.
Here she is upstaging Michael Ball.