Look Back at the Original Production of Gypsy Starring Ethel Merman

Archival Photos   Look Back at the Original Production of Gypsy Starring Ethel Merman
The production opened 61 years ago at the Broadway Theatre.
Ethel Merman (center) in Gypsy.
Ethel Merman (center) in Gypsy. Friedman-Abeles / The New York Public Library

The original Broadway production of Gypsy, starring Ethel Merman as the indomitable stage mother Rose, opened May 21, 1959, at the Broadway Theatre. Arthur Laurents based his book on the memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, with a score by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. Jerome Robbins staged the 702-performance run. The Broadway revivals have starred Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, Linda Lavin, Bernadette Peters, and Patti LuPone in the iconic role of Rose.

The original Broadway production of Gypsy opened on Broadway at the Broadway Theatre May 21, 1959. The musical, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, played two previews and 702 performances before closing on March 25, 1961. The production earned eight Tony Award nominations, including for Best Musical, but did not win any.

With music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Arthur Laurents, Gypsy follows indomitable stage mother Rose, who chases vicarious success and stardom as she pushes her daughters through the vaudeville circuit. When Baby June flees the act to elope, Rose vows to make introverted Louise into a star.

Ethel Merman starred as Rose, joined by Sandra Church as Louise, Jack Klugman as Herbie, and Lane Bradbury as June. For the full opening night cast and credits, check out PlaybillVault.com/Gypsy.

Flip through photos of the production below:

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