“Here she is boys…here she is world!”
Listening to the 2008 Broadway Cast Recording of Gypsy hard on the heels of the London cast recording, I was a little worried that it might just pale by comparison, especially since I was able to see the show at the Savoy and pay endless tribute to Imelda Staunton. But with the formidable Patti LuPone at the helm, this is just as strong a Mama Rose, if dramatically and musically much different. This album has the added bonus of a suite of songs that were cut from the original production.
The production is perhaps most infamous for being the scene of one of LuPone’s first recorded outbursts against audiences members using devices in her presence (see video below) but having seen the show here in London and listened to LuPone’s rendition of the show-stopping Rose’s Turn, I don’t think you can blame her for criticising someone for shocking a performer out of in the intensity of such a moment (and not simply bathing in it themselves).
For it is intense, LuPone’s Mama Rose is naturally superbly sung with force and ferocity, there’s no real fragility in her as her desires eat her up from the inside, rather they burn her out and LuPone’s amazing belt takes us right through to that explosive end. That’s not to say there isn’t any emotion in her performance, ‘Small World’ has beautifully soft edges, but the solidity of her characterisation means she has the unstoppable force of a runaway train and that vocal and dramatic confidence is thrilling to listen to.
It’s interesting to see Laura Benanti’s different take on Gypsy Rose Lee, utterly heart-breaking in ‘Little Lamb’, ‘The Strip’ has a slightly harsher edge, the arrival of ‘experience’ comes more as a lightbulb moment and you can see why she won a Tony for this performance. As did Boyd Gaines, who invests Herbie with a greater depth of pathos and musical strength than either of the men who played against Staunton in the UK.
Alison Fraser, Lenora Nemetz and Marilyn Caskey rightly have a ball with ‘You Gotta Get A Gimmick’.and then inclusion of these cut bonus tracks is a canny move that will have entrapped any MT completists. They’re interesting rather than indispensable in all honesty but the copious liner notes do up the ante to make this a most educational package. And Robert Ginzler, Sid Ramin and Jonathan Tunick’s orchestrations sound brilliant under Patrick Vaccariello’s precise musical direction, making this an ideal companion rather than competitor to the 2015 London Cast Recording.