Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Pulling all the stops out: Gypsy
Gypsy has been running since April, and four months in Imelda Staunton’s performance as the mother of all stage mothers is still fascinating, exciting and exhausting to watch. It's amazing showcase in stamina, guts and determination, and that's just working with the material.
Staunton previously managed to give new meaning and depth to the role of Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd. Here she gives a dramatic sense of determination and vulnerability to the role.
And what lingers after the show is her exquisite vocals that give a velvety depth to the character. While there is an album from the show, after hearing her sing in this show I really want to hear her sing jazz standards. Afterall she knows how to writhe every possible meaning out of a lyric.
But star power (and future album wish lists) aside, this show has a gritty feel that at times feels a bit too joyless. You are left without a doubt that this show is really about the race to the bottom, which is not necessarily a good thing with a night out at the theatre.
To be fair it is a challenging musical. There is no real romance, the only love here is the love of being on stage. And it ends (and this is a possible spoiler for anyone unfamiliar with the show) with the daughter agreeing to look after her mother. That's not a musical fable that's real life.
But you can’t help but get the feeling that the production missed the chance to explain the time, place and magic of Vaudeville better. Instead there are a series of rolling titles on the side and a series of static sets wheeled on and off.
Louise Gold, Julie Legrand and Anita Louise Combe provide welcome comic relief as the jaded and faded strippers working what little talent and dignity they have left. But it is awfully late in the show.
Gypsy runs at the Savoy Theatre until 28 November.
Photo credit: Production photo by Johan Persson