It seemed only a matter of time before LuPone — the Juilliard-trained actress whose powerful belt easily scaled the dangerously high sections of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita — would tackle what is arguably the most demanding female role in the musical theatre canon: that stage mother of all stage mothers, Rose, in the classic musical Gypsy.
LuPone's journey with the role began last summer when she played a weekend of performances in a semi-staged concert version of the Jule Styne-Arthur Laurents-Stephen Sondheim musical at the Ravinia Festival in Illinois. Positive reviews, a buzz that echoed all the way to Manhattan and a reported phone call to co-creator Laurents helped cement the current run at New York's City Center. LuPone received nearly unanimous raves for her performance in the role created by Ethel Merman.
Although rumors have been swirling about a possible Broadway or London transfer for this production of Gypsy, there has been no official announcement about a move to either location.
Directed by Laurents, who wrote the book to what is considered one of the finest American musicals, the cast also boasts Boyd Gaines as Herbie, Laura Benanti as Louise, Leigh Ann Larkin as Dainty June, Tony Yazbeck as Tulsa, Alison Fraser as Tessie Tura, Nancy Opel as Mazeppa/Miss Cratchitt, Marilyn Caskey as Electra, Sami Gayle as Baby June, Emma Rowley as Baby Louise, Jim Bracchita as Uncle Jocko/Pastey, Bill Bateman as George/Mr. Goldstone/Bougeron-Cochon, Bill Raymond as Pop/Cigar and Brian Reddy as Weber/Phil.
The creative team also includes Patrick Vaccariello (music direction), Bonnie Walker (reproducing Jerome Robbins' original choreography), James Youmans (set design), Martin Pakledinaz (costume design), Howell Binkley (lighting design) and Dan Moses Schreier (sound design). Gypsy features a score by Jule Styne (music) and Stephen Sondheim (lyrics) and a book by Arthur Laurents. The musical bowed on Broadway in May 1959 at the Broadway Theatre, playing 702 performances before closing at the Imperial Theatre, where it later transferred, on March 25, 1961. Ethel Merman created the role of Rose in the original production; subsequent Broadway Roses include Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly and Bernadette Peters. Merman and Peters were Tony-nominated for their performances; Lansbury and Daly won the coveted award.
A Tony Award winner for her work in Evita, Patti LuPone also earned an Olivier Award for her performances in the West End productions of Lés Misérables and The Cradle Will Rock. Her other theatrical credits include Sunset Boulevard, Anything Goes, Oliver!, Working, The Old Neighborhood, Master Class and Pal Joey. LuPone also headlined two solo Broadway concerts, Patti LuPone On Broadway and Matters of the Heart, and received glowing notices for her performance as Mrs. Lovett in the Lincoln Center concert version of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd and a Tony nomination for her performance in the recent revival of that Sondheim work. She was seen in the Kennedy Center's staging of Marc Blitzstein's Regina and recently joined Audra McDonald for Los Angeles Opera's production of Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht's Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny.
Laura Benanti was most recently on Broadway in The Wedding Singer. She played Claudia in the Tony-winning revival of Maury Yeston's Nine, and she received Tony Award nominations for her performances in Swing! and the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods. She was also seen in The Sound of Music, Time and Again and the City Center Encores! mounting of Wonderful Town. Benanti's regional credits include roles in A Little Night Music, Man of La Mancha and A Winter’s Tale.
Boyd Gaines — a 2007 Tony nominee for his performance in Journey's End — won Tony Awards for his performances in The Heidi Chronicles, She Loves Me and Contact. His other Broadway credits include Twelve Angry Men, Cabaret, Company and The Show Off.
Tickets for Gypsy are available at the City Center box office (West 55th Street, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues). Tickets, priced $25-$110, are also available by calling (212) 581-1212 or by visiting www.nycitycenter.org.