"Curtain up, light the lights, we got nothin' to hit but the heights!"
Gypsy: A Musical Fable is widely considered the most perfect musical of all time, boasting over five new productions on Broadway since its premiere in 1959. The story of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee and her overbearing mother Rose is one of the only American folktales to capture the heart of music lovers from coast to coast. Boasting a score by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, its luminary creative team is the stuff of legends.
Yet, as fanciful and padded as it is, the bones of the story are true. Ms. Lee was a noted historical fictionist, taking the facts of her life and spinning them faster than a windmill on Lake St. Yet, underneath all the fluff and fudged details, the story of the ultimate "stage mother" and her ugly duckling turned sex icon has inspired, fascinated, and captivated audiences that number in the millions.
The musical has been revived on Broadway for years, with a glittering array of actresses playing Mama Rose: Ethel Merman (the originator), Angela Lansbury (the underdog), Tyne Daly (the croaker), Bernadette Peters (the media victim), and Patti LuPone (the inheritor of her predecessors legacy.) Two movies have been made using the film as their bases, a dreary 1962 affair with Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood, and an extremely faithful 1993 television adaptation with Bette Midler.
Despite such standard songs as "Everything's coming up roses", "Small world", and "Rose's Turn", the "Overture" to Gypsy has often been hailed as the most perfect piece of musical theatre ever to be composed. It includes snippets from "Everything's coming up roses", "You'll never get away from me", "Small world", and "Mr. Goldstone", and is cited as a perfect compact representation of the brilliant show that it heralds.
This is the piece of music I have chosen to share with you this week, so raise the curtain up and SING OUT, LOUISE!