This morning, producers confirmed that – on the back of a shedload of new five-star reviews from last week’s West End opening – Jonathan Kent‘s Chichester Festival production of Gypsy, “starring Imelda Staunton as the indomitable Rose”, has extended its booking until 28 November 2015 at the Savoy Theatre.
Having consumed the first shedload of five-star reviews, from the production’s premiere last autumn at Chichester Festival Theatre, the West End transfer of Gypsy was top of my list (and many others’ lists) of preview picks for #theatre2015. I finally caught Gypsy last week and am happy to report that it more than matched the hyperbole heaped upon it (see below).
— Terri Paddock (@TerriPaddock) April 16, 2015
The huge weight of that hype rests squarely on the tiny shoulders of Staunton, all five-foot-nought of her. As Momma Rose, this lady is a pint-sized powerhouse, commanding the stage from the moment she marches on, terrier in tow, to take charge of a kids’ audition.
Staunton’s Rose steers her ever-dwindling troupe through the Great Depression, the dusty American heartlands and the dying throes of vaudeville with beady-eyed determination and steely resolve. The only thing greater than her ambition for her daughters is her resentment, laid snarlingly bare in the finale, “Rose’s Turn”, that it coulda been, shoulda been her if only she hadn’t “been born too soon and started too late”.
Though it’s hard to take your eyes off Staunton, when you do, there’s plenty else to admire in Jonathan Kent’s production. Lara Pulver is believably transformed from tom-boy to femme fatale Gypsy Rose Lee, while Peter Davison, though towering over Staunton, is sympathetically under her thumb as Herbie.
Other bright spots include Dan Burton‘s solo dance duet (choreographed by Stephen Mear), Anite Louise Combe‘s gimmick gal Tessie Tura, Julie Legrand‘s scary-haired old stripper, and Gemma Sutton‘s babied June.