Deborah Gibson, recently departed from Broadway's Beauty and the Beast, has been cast as Gypsy Rose Lee in the upcoming Paper Mill Playhouse production of Gypsy. The leading candidate for Mama Rose continues to be Betty Buckley. Spokesperson Jim Byk of Richard Kornberg's office confirmed (July 14) that Buckley had been offered the role and an answer was expected in the next few days.
The Jule Styne & Stephen Sondheim classic will open the New Jersey theatre's 1998-99 season. The last major Gypsy revival was on Broadway with Tyne Daly. According to Paper Mill spokesperson Dennis Dougherty, Mark Waldrop co-writer and director of When Pigs Fly will direct Gypsy. He also staged Three of Hearts, with Faith Prince and Mary Rodgers, at Rainbow and Stars.
Buckley previously starred as Mama Rose in a 1992 production of Gypsy at the Southern Arizona Light Opera Company. Patti LuPone, star of the recently shuttered Broadway production of David Mamet's The Old Neighborhood, had also been in the running for the role, but according to spokesperson Byk, reached June 22, had another, non-theatre commitment that took her out of the running.
Adding fuel to Buckley's candidacy are reports that she'll be recording a two-disk set of Gypsy for JAY Records. Gypsy, tentatively scheduled to run at Paper Mill Sept. 9-Oct 25, features a set by resident designer Michael Anania.
Following Gypsy at Paper Mill will be a new version (Nov. 4-Dec. 13) of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by David Levy & Leslie Eberhard (book & lyrics) with music by Phil Hall. Starring will be Richard White, Marc Kudisch (High Society), Glory Crampton (Off-Broadway's Carnival) and Judy McLane. This adaptation of the Robert Louis Stevenson thriller is not connected to the Frank Wildhorn currently at Broadway's Plymouth Theatre. Philip Wm. McKinley directs. After that (tentatively) it's (Jan. 6-Feb. 14, 1999) George S. Kaufman & Moss Hart's The Man Who Came To Dinner. The comedy about a misery-inducing houseguest is by the same authors as Once In A Lifetime and You Can't Take It With You. According to a Paper Mill spokesperson, the theatre has been waiting for a particular star to commit to Dinner, though the performer's recent illness may keep him out of the production, forcing Paper Mill to either cancel or recast.
Then comes (Feb. 24-Apr. 3, 1999) Charlotte Bronte's Wuthering Heights adapted for the stage by Paper Mill artistic director, Robert Johanson.
Then it's La Cage aux Folles (Apr. 14-May 30), starring Lee Roy Reams as Albin. Robert Johanson directs. Harvey Fierstein wrote the book, and rumor has it composer Jerry Herman is "tinkering a bit" with La Cage for this engagement. Jerry Mitchell (Paper Mill's Follies) is choreographing.
Announced to finish the season (June 9-July 18, 1999) is Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The musical is still under consideration but may be scrapped, due to the current, Broadway-bound Osmond Brothers tour of the Andrew Lloyd Webber & Tim Rice musical.
Robert Johanson is artistic director of the Paper Mill Playhouse, the official state theatre of New Jersey. Musicals previously revived at the Millburn theatre include South Pacific, Show Boat and Gigi; newer works include Chess, Phantom, Jane Eyre and Comfortable Shoes.
For tickets and information on Paper Mill Playhouse shows, call (973) 379-3636.
--By Robert Simonson