At The St. James Theatre, 246 W 44th Street
It’s difficult to say the new Gypsy is brilliant—but not because it isn’t true; it is. Who didn’t know before walking into the theater that with Patti LuPone in the lead, this would be one of those monumental theatrical experiences people remember forever? And really, with a luminary like her, how could this Gypsy possibly go wrong?
It doesn’t disappoint. LuPone as the mad mother obsessed with getting her kids solid stage fame is a force of nature. What’s most surprising is the way the rest of the cast excels in this bare-bones staging, directed by the show’s librettist, Arthur Laurents. As a vehicle for the strong woman and powerhouse singer that is Momma Rose, the rest of Gypsy’s characters tend to fall by the wayside in other productions. In this respect, LuPone is a giving actress, allowing her co-stars to claim their own presences on stage. Laura Benanti as Louise does a remarkable transformation from awkward girl to the beauteous burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee. Leigh Ann Larkin plays a Baby June that, through her undulating sweetness and bitterness, is particularly likeable. And Boyd Gaines as Herbie actually has chemistry with Momma Rose, something previous Herbies have chronically lacked. Still, the reason to see Gypsy was and always will be the lead, and this lead is the mother of all Mommas.