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I never in my life saw an audience this excited, thrilled beyond imagining, screaming, yelling, celebrating, clapping at almost every possible opportunity. I knew that with this Lupone Mama Rose something special would happen at the last performance. A good early sign was seeing Barbara Walters waiting for her companion right out front and being very gracious to autograph-seekers and even those people who insist on being in photos with celebs. Looked marvelous and is perfectly statuesque and erect, you see a little more about her in person than most TV celebs I've seen, has a certain exoticism.

Mostly wonderful production, gorgeous orchestra, Lupone pushy and sensational, and primal screaming at the end of 'Rose's Turn'. Needs a more expensive production, as the sets were adequate but not great, and Tulsa was not dressed right. Much nattier in the movie, here he looks a little too cornpone, but no need for that sort of realism. Some of the more leisurely Herbie/Rose songs--'You'll Never Get Away from Me' and 'Small World' were too fast (they got the pace for these much better in the movie), which sound okay in themselves like that, but take away a little of the punch of 'Everything's Coming Up Roses'. Lupone's outifts needed a little more glamorizing too, I'd say, her dresses and hairstyle a maybe unnecessarily frumpy. Hope they take it to Broadway and spiff up a little--there's not quite enough 'mystery of the theater' in it; otherwise, the cast is pretty terrific, with great Junes and Ms. Laura Benanti is wonderful, vocally and physically, as Gypsy. Strippers were good, but Faith Dane and Roxanne Arlen were both better as Mazeppa and Electra. The Tessie Tura (Alison Fraser) was close to perfect though.

Anyway, endless curtain calls and flowers at the end, none of the usual professional endings, and Sondheim and Laurents came on stage. Lupone kept figuring out ways to stay onstage and there were tons of standing ovations even after numbers, flowers thrown by the audience, thrown by Lupone, Lupone clapping for the audience, just a beautiful show biz event.

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I wonder if Ben Brantley liked Bernadette Peters or Tyne Daly as Mama Rose. I've seen both women in Gypsy on B'way and then Patti Lupone's (on opening night) at Encores', and Patti was absolutely sensational while I only liked (but didn't love) Peters and Daly. No wonder Patrick was so excited writing his comments. Patti's performance was absolutely fantastic in her 200% style.

If Ben Brantley saw Ethel Merman as Mama Rose, then I might understand how hers probably was vocally the best, but as far as acting and an overall exciting and totally, freshly convincing performance with singing, I mean BELTING...., I don't think anybody will ever match Patti's recent performances.

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My pleasure, Farrell Fan. And I was definitely thinking about that review occasionally, and looked it up again once home. While it's possible that opening night Lupone was not as hot as she became, I simply cannot see how he could say we were 'without a tidal wave of a Mama Rose' even if she was being careful (or something) the first night, which, if it happened, might have been because of nerves and testing the waters a bit in a role she'd long dreamed of and gone through much grief to capture. By last night, I don't believe any of that was true in terms of Ms. Lupone's performance, as there was so much electricity in the air from the beginning--I mean this audience bravoed and screamed at the intro to the Overture! Even before they got to hear their diva, they were so excited to hear this overture they were totally out of control. The minute Lupone came onstage she could neither do nor say anything until people sat down and quieted down. But I always thought the minute she got started, she did deliver, and as anybody familiar with her knows, she also can't wait to deliver, is charming that way. And with an audience like this, she had little choice, even had the effort proved fatal! I also had a vague feeling that Brantley somehow wanted to test her, that he might not have put most major performers through what comes across as something like a mild grilling when she would surely already had to have been pretty high up (which he concedes, but 'praising with faint damns', as would have been the phrase of choice of many here...) I frankly got the feeling he wanted to give her a bit of a hard time, or wanted to find some subtlety of perception, that sort that nobody else saw since they had been 'carried away' to such a degree they 'were no longer objective' sort of thing. (I didn't get that feeling from his also lukewarm review of Redgrave in 'Magical Thinking', which seemed much more thoughtful.)

I think that there had been much excitement generated since the opening (including many reviews much more favourable), so that by last night Lupone was even working with her audience, intent on delivering whatever she might not have in the previous 3 weeks even; and she would have known that Sondheim and Laurents were there even if we didn't till the end. Given this, it's the problems in the rest of the production as I've described some of it that may have made her sometimes not great but simply very good. I see that this tendency to speed up tempi everywhere is half driving me crazy, and I went back to thinking about how some of us were so annoyed by 'Nutcracker' tempi this past Christmas at NYCB, and I had especially been appalled at Dewdrop having to race to catch up. Well, there was nothing here that was that infuriating, but it is definitely as if excitement and adrenalin are impossible foes, to wit, they simply can't slow down, and a Columbia professor behind me and I discussed this. He'd done the show himself a good number of times, and thought that it worked well as it was, but that he really noticed in 'Small World' how they zipped through it. We also discussed the weird casting of LA Opera's holiday-time production of 'The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny', which had Lupone as Widow Begbick and Audra MacDonald as Jenny. This had interested me because of seeing them both this season, and I believe '110 in the Shade' closed only this week. I can easily see Lupone as either the Widow or as a fantastic Jenny along the lines of her Mrs. Lovett, but not Audra MacDonald as Jenny: She's got a big range, but is too beautiful and slender to be truly sluttish in that way that Catherine Malfitano does so expertly and effortlessly when she makes her Jenny.

The most admirable thing about this production was how superb all the performers were despite the fact that the sets were pretty drab. Gypsy's dressing room at the end is so bare and without froufrou you'd think Wieland Wagner had been called in, or that we were getting something from Wozzeck. So, when we often complain of the giant spectacles being done for shows and ballet productions, and the performers sometimes not being able to fully inhabit these, the deficiencies here are (excepting the speeding up of leisurely tempi, which I'm getting close to calling a 'societal malaise') in the superficial things. Better they be there than in the performers. At the very beginning, the energy is set by the Baby June, played by Sami Gayle, this furiously energetic little vaudeville blonde-straw-haired doll who can dance like the devil on pointe and has all sorts of comedy talent and hilarious jokey deliveries already as a child.

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and then Patti Lupone's (on opening night) at Encores', and Patti was absolutely sensational while I only liked (but didn't love) Peters and Daly.

sz--Thanks for settling what imagined problems opening night might have presented.

Patti's performance was absolutely fantastic in her 200% style.

200% style is it, I swear that's IT!

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I wonder if Ben Brantley liked Bernadette Peters or Tyne Daly as Mama Rose. I've seen both women in Gypsy on B'way and then Patti Lupone's (on opening night) at Encores', and Patti was absolutely sensational while I only liked (but didn't love) Peters and Daly.

I haven't seen Lupone (yet) as Mama Rose, but of the ones I have seen live, Daly remains my favorite. Hands down one of the most frightening creations I've seen in the theatre, and she filled the Dorothy Chandler in Los Angeles with her presence in the pre-Broadway run. From what I understand, she was suffering quite a bit vocally by the time the production reached Broadway, though.

Peters was terribly miscast and I don't think Sam Mendes' direction did her any favors. I think her voice has deteriorated considerably in the last few years, as well. Her renditions of pieces from "Gypsy" about 20 years ago were quite thrilling, in a way she was unable to match in the recent production.

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Somehow Roz is still my favorite Rose and I've seen Tyne, Bernadette and Patti (at Ravinia) live.

Too bad it was not Patti in the Mendes/Broadway production which I loved.

Thanks for writing, glebb. This interests me a great deal, because I think Roz is stupendously good too, and that the movie is vastly underrated. The Merman sting in the singing voice is missed, but there's such a long history of controversial castings of Broadway shows--and people get upset when the stage star is not used (often understandably). You may have seen the thread on the upcoming movie of 'Sweeney Todd'. I recently watched the video of the concert version from 2000 or thereabouts, and I can't see why Lupone has never been given a chance in a big movie part--and that would have been just the one. I don't believe she couldn't do it, and think she could have definitely turned 'Evita' into something worth watching, which I don't think it is. Madonna is too small-persona for the part, is not possessed enough with these manias to become that big.

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I always wonder what Meryl would have done with the film of EVITA.

I saw Patti on Broadway and of course it was thrilling.

I saw Patti as Mrs. Lovett at Lincoln Center and much preferred her most recent interpretation though I agree she would have been perfect for the upcoming film.

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I always wonder what Meryl would have done with the film of EVITA.

Me, too. Although I think even Meryl would have been sunk by that particular production.

I saw Patti as Mrs. Lovett at Lincoln Center and much preferred her most recent interpretation though I agree she would have been perfect for the upcoming film.

Certainly better than Helena Bonham Carter, which I feel confident of saying in advance. Like many stage personalities, however, LuPone might have been a little 'too much' for the screen.

papeetepatrick writes:

This interests me a great deal, because I think Roz is stupendously good too, and that the movie is vastly underrated.

I liked her, too, although I'm not sure I would go so far as to call the movie underrated. It's the production I and I'm sure many others learned Gypsy from, though, and I'm grateful it was made.

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I've not seen this performance, nor am I an unequivocal fan of LuPone. I thought the following comments, by Charles Isherwood in today's NY Times, were interesting and had a ring of truth to them. Any thoughts from those who were there?

Ms. LuPone’s sharply attuned instincts as a star performer seemed to kick in automatically at the show’s celebrated high points. She delivered Rose’s big songs with assured musicianship and commanding authority. Missing, for me at least, was the sense that she was living these crucial moments inside the itching soul of the character. These songs — “Some People,†“Everything’s Coming Up Roses†and “Rose’s Turn†— are celebrated numbers. They are among the most thrilling in all of musical comedy, probably, but they are something more: finely wrought expressions of volcanic emotion overflowing the limits of plain speech.

Interestingly, both at Ravinia and in New York, Ms. LuPone’s performance was most effective in the scenes that find Rose warmly but sometimes wrongheadedly mothering her daughters, or forging a complicated but rewarding relationship with Herbie (the stalwart Boyd Gaines), the man destined never to be her fourth husband. The climactic confrontation between Rose and her daughter Gypsy Rose Lee (a terrific Laura Benanti) was the most emotionally wrenching I’ve ever witnessed, for example.

When the responsibility of delivering a big moment or putting across a joke was lifted from her shoulders, Ms. LuPone was moving, compelling and alive. The familiar, charismatic entertainer stepped aside, and the actor emerged, revealing anew that illuminating the truths of human experience immortalized in art is the greatest entertainment of all.

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Here's the link to the whole article, which needs to be read to know how extraordinary an event Lupone's Momma Rose became in the immediate days following, building up to ferocious differences in opinion, such as a Playgoer reviewer saying 'was Ben Brantley on crack?'

Bart--No, I didn't feel any of the sensations described here. I thought the big moments were the best, and the smaller moments were better in terms of the supporting players, as the older June--a very acerbic one as played by Leigh Ann Larkin. What the non-enthusiasts seem to want is an almost classical purity since this show is probably the greatest single American musical--which even Brantley conceded you could see on display in this production. If Lupone gets into some sense of 'burlesque' herself, as I believe Isherwood indicated to be his perception, I don't think that's inappropriate given that the film is about both vaudeville and burlesque and Momma Rose is not exactly what one might by any stretch of the imagination be termed 'someone subtle.' The show itself is close to perfect, but to me all the flaws were in the cheap look of the sets and costumes, and the inability to slow down tempi. But then someone with a powerful stage presence like Lupone is bound to not be to everyone's taste. I definitely thought it was the big moments that were triumphant, and the end of 'Rose's Turn' was like something usually associated only with a great hugely-egoed opera singer.

Dirac--I still wonder about this 'too big for the screen' thing, and I think I don't really believe it myself, even though you and sidwich both have mentioned it vis-a-vis Ethel Merman and others. I recently watched Patti Lupone in the video of 'Sweeney Todd', so doesn't a video of a live performance give you at least something of an idea of what might be between the actually stage event (being there) and a film? If anything, it's that she hasn't got precisely the same kind of big personal and business-savvy power that Barbra Streisand had, because Streisand as 'Funny Girl' was as big as it gets--and yet she went on to do quite a number of Hollywood musicals, both adaptation and original. And she was huge in 'Funny Girl' and 'Hello Dolly' and 'Yentl' (and quite a bit less in 'On a Clear Day' IMO, which I find dreadful in the extreme.) There may be some business thing that can't quite be translated. But 'Evita' needed a bigger-than-life persona, and I thought it amounted to little or nothing with Madonna. Ethel Merman did a good number of movies back in the 30s and 40s and was able to disappear well-enough in some of them; she didn't overpower anything. She then belted out 'There's No Business Like Show Business' in that show, and it was as big as it needed to be, not really 'too big.' I guess I just can't see this as a problem.

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Here's Brantley on the new improved Gypsy (better wigs, more focussed perf. that sends even Ben up into rarefied air, etc.) at the St. James. Anyone sees this, please report, because I won't be...I'm sure it's good, BUT...once is enough for me...He says nothing about the sets, which were the worst aspect of the Encores production. I hope they've been spiffed up.

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