The Bernadette Peters-Sam Mendes production of Gypsy, discussed openly by its creators since fall 2000, will finally go beyond talk at the turn of the new year. Judy Katz, Peters' representative, said rehearsals would begin in London in January 2003. The production would happen later that spring, possibly in April, at a theatre yet to be named (the Royal National Theatre has been mentioned in the past).
Peters will play Mama Rose, the towering stage mother role created by Ethel Merman and since essayed by the likes of Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly and Linda Lavin. The role routinely wins the actress playing it a Tony Award.
If Gypsy does land at the National, it will continue a recent RNT tradition of mounting lavish productions of classic American musicals. Examples include Trevor Nunn and Susan Stroman's praised version of Oklahoma!, Candide and the current My Fair Lady and South Pacific. Oklahoma! is due on Broadway this spring, and My Fair Lady is also expected to make the leap. Laurents has repeatedly stated that Gypsy will reach New York.
Peters has appeared in such Broadway musicals as Dames at Sea, Mack and Mabel, Sunday in the Park With George, Into the Woods, Song and Dance and Annie Get Your Gun. She won Tony Awards for the last two.
Mendes is known on both sides of the Atlantic for his award-winning direction of David Hare's Blue Room and Kander and Ebb's Cabaret, as well as the Oscar-winning film "American Beauty." He recently announced that the upcoming season at the Donmar Warehouse—a theatre he has guided for ten years—will be his last. *
Gypsy has received several high profile revivals since it first bowed in 1959, with Ethel Merman as Mama Rose. Angela Lansbury played the part on Broadway in 1974, followed by Tyne Daly in 1990. Betty Buckley starred in a production at the Paper Mill Playhouse in 1998.
Broadway legend Peters will lend her celebrated voice to the Rodgers and Hammerstein songbook on her next recording. The album, called simply "Bernadette Peters Loves Rodgers and Hammerstein," will be released in March 2002 on the Angel label.
Peters is more typically associated with modern composers rather than the shows of musical theatre's golden age. She is best known for her parts in Stephen Sondheim's Sunday in the Park with George and Into the Woods and won her first Tony Award for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Song and Dance. However, her most recent stage assignment was one of the classic roles in musical history: Annie Oakley in Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. The part won her a second Tony.
Jonathan Tunick does orchestrations and conducts on the new album.
—By Robert Simonson