She hasn't signed on the dotted line, but Bernadette Peters felt certain enough of her imminent future in London to announce at a recent panel that she would be playing Mama Rose in a UK production of Gypsy. Peters talked about the upcoming project while being interviewed by New York Times reporter Stephen Holden in a Dec. 11 installment of the Times' "Broadway Divas as Gay Icons" series.
When last heard from, Peters was "in talks" to play the role. A representative for Peters confirmed the actress' plans. No specific dates have been decided upon, but it looks like the Stephen Sondheim-Jule Styne-Arthur Laurents musical will find a home at the Royal National Theatre. As previously revealed, Sam Mendes will direct. After a three month run at the RNT, the show will move to New York City. No other stars have been named.
Gypsy will continue a recent RNT tradition of mounting lavish productions of classic American musicals. Past examples include Trevor Nunn and Susan Stroman's praised version of Oklahoma!, Candide and the upcoming My Fair Lady. Producer Cameron Mackintosh has been trying to bring Oklahoma! to Broadway ever since it bowed in London—so far, unsuccessfully.
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." *
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.
The Paper Mill production was once set to travel to Canada, but those planned died. Paper Mill had been discussing the move with the Mirvishes, the powerful Canadian producing family. If it had worked out, Gypsy would have opened in Toronto sometime in spring 1999. Reportedly, Gypsy librettist Laurents refused to release the rights to the musical. A spokesman for Buckley said at the time that he believed Laurents had plans to stage a different version of the show in London.