FOR THE RECORD: Gypsy
If your toes don't start to tap, your heart rate doesn't speed up and a smile doesn't cross your face as you listen to the Gypsy overture — skillfully led by conductor Marvin Laird and his orchestra on the new Gypsy cast recording — then you're probably reading the wrong column.
Perhaps the finest overture ever written, with composer Jule Styne at the peak of his talents, the Gypsy overture is just the first of 22 wonderful tracks on the Angel Records release that is due in stores Aug. 19. Starring two-time Tony Award winner Bernadette Peters as the infamous Momma Rose, the Gypsy CD — with a running time of 63 minutes and 51 seconds — is, simply, thrilling.
I must confess that I had the recording for a full week before I listened to any track that didn't feature Peters. Her renditions of "Some People," "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rose's Turn" are especially spellbinding. Before I get to those show-stoppers, however, a bit about the other talents that comprise the company of Gypsy, now going strong at the Shubert Theatre.
With second billing, Emmy Award winner Tammy Blanchard as title player Gypsy Rose Lee paints a touching portrait of a gawky, young woman who, while craving the mother's attention she never receives, blossoms into a sexy, confident strip-tease artist. Blanchard uses her voice effectively, and her "Little Lamb" is both sweet and sad, while her second-act strip ("Let Me Entertain You") builds from a tentative plea to a more forceful climax. Blanchard and a belty Kate Reinders (as June) also score with a powerful "If Momma Was Married." As the put-upon agent Herbie, John Dossett is perhaps the first Herbie who makes one wish he had more to sing. Dossett possesses a smooth, velvety tone that he uses effectively in his brief musical passages in "Small World," "You'll Never Get Away from Me" and "Together, Wherever We Go." And, David Burtka as the dancer-with-dreams Tulsa, is as charming and touching on disc as he is on stage. His "All I Need Is the Girl" provides one of the musical's more joyous moments.
Another highlight of the classic Styne-Stephen Sondheim score is the second-act crowd-pleaser "You Gotta Get a Gimmick," featuring the many talents of the three cosmetically challenged strippers: the throaty Kate Buddeke (Mazeppa), the always hilarious Julie Halston (Electra) and the dynamic Heather Lee (Tessie Tura). And, then there's Peters, who has created a Rose to be reckoned with, a powerful performance that once again confirms her status as one of the finest singing actresses to have ever graced the Broadway stage. The Gypsy disc offers some of her most exciting recorded vocal work since the LP of Sondheim and James Lapine's Sunday in the Park with George. Just listen to the determination in Peters' voice as she declares, "Anybody that stays home is dead! If I die, it won't be from sitting, it'll be from fighting to get up and get out!" She then goes on to deliver a fast-paced "Some People" that soars throughout, climaxing in the final stanza: "Goodbyyyyyyyyyye to blueberry pie.... Well, they can stay and ROT! But not Roooooooose!" The new Gypsy recording, in fact, showcases Peters' many vocal colors. She uses her voice with skill, seducing Herbie with a subtle "Small World" and an equally beguiling "You'll Never Get Away From Me." She brings her comedic flair to "Mr. Goldstone" and is completely delightful in the second-act trio with Dossett and Blanchard, "Together, Wherever We Go."
It's on the first-act finale, however, where Peters' first thrilling vocal explosion occurs, the hair-raising "Everything's Coming Up Roses." The track begins with a few lines from Arthur Laurents' libretto that lead up to the song: "I'm gonna make you a star. I'm gonna build a whole new act all around you. It's going to be better than anything we ever did before, better than anything we even dreamed. Look at the new star, Herbie. She's going to be beautiful. She is beautiful. Finished! We're just beginning! And there's no stopping us this time!" Peters delivers the lines with a chilling intensity before launching into her passionate "Everything's Coming Up Roses." In Peters' hands the song becomes one of the most harrowing theatrical moments, the ultimate anthem of desperation. Vocally, I particularly like the way she vibratos the first syllable of "everything" each time she sings "everything's coming up. . ." as well as the nuances she brings to the final list of "everything's coming up roses and daffodils, everything's coming up sunshine and Santa Claus, everything's gonna be bright lights and lollipops, Everything's coming up roses for me and for you!"
And, what's left to say about her "Rose's Turn," now thankfully preserved for the ages. She has taken a song that has been delivered incredibly by others and brought it to a new level. And, as I've written before, her interpretation reaches its climax in the word "well" that precedes "Well, someone tell me when is it my turn? Don't I get a dream for myself!" The frustration, the longing, the wanting, the needing — all the love and success that Rose has been unsuccessfully searching for her entire life — finally explodes in this belty "Well." Peters' performance is so dramatic that she can't wait until the rest of the sentence to explode: The explosion comes early in “Welllll!” and it's frighteningly intense.
With four tracks never before recorded ("Entr'acte," "Madame Rose's Toreadorables," "Small World" (reprise) and "Curtain"), a line or more of dialogue preceding most every song and Peters' star performance, this may be the definitive Gypsy. A must for theatre (and diva) lovers.
IN OTHER DIVA NEWS OF THE WEEK: Mamma Mia!'s Karen Mason, A Man of No Importance's Jessica Molaskey and cabaret veteran Tom Andersen will perform at a benefit for WBAI-FM Sept. 8. The concert — which is scheduled for 7 PM at Danny's Skylight Room — will celebrate the 25th anniversary of WBAI's "Everything Old Is New Again," which spotlights theatre and cabaret recordings each Sunday from 9-11 PM ET on WBAI 99.5 FM. The program is also broadcast on the internet at www.2600.com/offthehook/hot2.ram; David Kenney is the program's host. The Sept. 8 concert will be taped for future broadcast on WBAI-FM. More performers for the one-night-only event will be announced shortly. Tickets for the benefit concert are priced at $25 plus a two-drink minimum. Danny's Skylight Room is located at 346 West 46th Street. Call (212) 265-8133 for reservations. . . . The Broadway company of The Lion King will welcome a new Nala this month. On Aug. 26 Kissy Simmons — who toured with the "Gazelle" company of The Lion King — will join the New York company of the Tony-winning musical. Simmons will replace Reneé Elise Goldsberry in the role originally created on Broadway by Heather Headley. A graduate of the University of South Florida, Simmons has appeared in regional productions of The World of Jacques Brel, Gift of the Magi and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The Lion King will mark her Broadway debut. . . . Tony Award winners Jane Krakowski and Nathan Lane will co-host the 12th annual Broadway on Broadway concert Sunday, Sept. 7 at 11:30 AM. Held in Times Square, this year's free outdoor concert will feature numbers from almost every musical now playing as well as sneak peeks from upcoming productions. Spectators — which are expected to number 50,000 — will have the opportunity to enjoy scenes from Hairspray, The Producers, Nine, Gypsy, Big River, Avenue Q, Mamma Mia!, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Chicago, Cabaret, Rent and The Phantom of the Opera as well as those from the forthcoming productions of Wicked, Little Shop of Horrors, Taboo and Never Gonna Dance. The afternoon will also offer glimpses of upcoming plays: Retreat from Moscow, Golda's Balcony and Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All. The free Broadway on Broadway event will also be filmed by WNBC-4 for broadcast on Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 7 PM.
Liz Callaway in Concert:
Aug. 29-30 at the Stockbridge Cabaret in Stockbridge, MA
Oct. 11 with the Binghamton Philharmonic Pops in Binghamton, NY
Oct. 20 at the 14th Annual New York Cabaret Convention in New York, NY
Jan. 31, 2004 in Sibling Revelry in Boston, MA
Feb. 8, 2004 in Sibling Revelry in Riverfront, IL
May 1, 2004 in Sibling Revelry in Orono, ME
May 8, 2004 in Sibling Revelry in Purchase, NY
Barbara Cook in Concert:
Sept. 7-8 at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, IL
Sept. 13 at the Tulsa Opera House in Tulsa, OK
Sept. 20 in Bethlehem, PA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Oct. 3 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA; concert with Marilyn Horne
Nov. 22 at Carnegie Hall in New York, NY
Patti LuPone in Concert:
Aug. 22-23 in Passion at the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park, IL
Oct. 25 at Symphony Hall in Boston, MA (“Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda”)
Nov. 7-9 with the Houston Symphony ("Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda")
Jan. 23, 2004 at the Eissey Campus Theatre in Palm Beach Gardens, FL
Jan. 24, 2004 at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, FL
Feb. 27-29, 2004 at the Myerhoff Hall in Baltimore, MD
March 12, 2004 at the New Jersey PAC in Newark, NJ
March 13 at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ
Karen Mason in Concert:
Aug. 18 at the King Kong Room in New York, NY
Oct. 4 with the Chicagoland Pops Orchestra at the Rosemont Theatre in Rosemont, IL
Oct. 18 at the Emelin Theater in NY
Nov. 15 at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center in Newark, NJ
Christiane Noll in Concert
Aug. 28 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Aug. 29 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Aug. 30 San Diego, CA with San Diego Symphony
Oct. 11 Chattanooga, TN with Don Pippin
Dec. 31 Des Moines, IA with Des Moines Symphony & Brad Little
Well, that’s all for now. Happy diva-watching!