Book by Arthur Laurents, based on Gypsy Rose Lee’s Gypsy. Music by Jule Styne. Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim. The original Broadway production opened on 21 May 1959 and was directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, running for 702 performances.
Synopsis and Musical Numbers
The curtain rises on a Seattle vaudeville house where Baby June and Baby Louise audition for a kiddy show (LET MME ENTERTAIN YOU). Their mother, Rose Hovick, enters, calling “Sing out, Louise!”, immediately establishing herself as the quintessential stage mother. In the next scene Rose, and explains her determination to develop June’s vaudeville career. Skeptical of Rose’s motives, her aging father refuses to subsidize the scheme, whereupon Rose rips her father’s solid gold plaque off the wall and hitchhikes to Los Angeles with the girls (SOME PEOPLE).
There she meets Herbie, whom she entices to represent the girls’ act, offering the possibility of romance and marriage at the same time (SMALL WORLD). Through Herbie’s efforts, “BABY JUNE AND HER NEWSBOYS” becomes a top vaudeville act but, as the years pass, June and Louise mature, vaudeville wanes, and the troupe is found in two plaster-cracked hotel rooms in Akron. Rose begins Louise’s birthday celebration with a breakfast of reheated Chinese food. Herbie arrives with MR GOLDSTONE, from the Orpheum Circuit, who offers a contract to save the day. A forgotten Louise sits with her present, a baby lamb, wondering how old she truly is (LITTLE LAMB).
Later, in a Chinese restaurant in New York, where Rose and Herbie discuss the next day’s audition at Grantzinger’s Palace. Herbie begs rose to marry him and threatens, that if she does not, he may some day pack his bags and leave. Rose convinces him otehrwise (YOU’LL NEVER GET AWAY FROM ME). After seeing DAINTY JUNE AND HER FARMBOYS, Mr Grantzinger does offer June a contract, but on the condition that she go to school for a solid year and take acting lessons and that Rose stays away. Rose refuses to accept these conditions and storms out of his office. Meanwhile, the girls dream of a normal life (IF MOMMA WAS MARRIED).
The troupe, infrequently employed and restless, continues to tour. In a theater alley in Buffalo, Tulsa, one of the farmboys in the act, tells Louise his dream of forming a dance team (ALL I NEED IS THE GIRL). Louise dreams of being that girl, but it is June who runs off with Tulsa. When Louise brings June’s goodbye note to Rose, she is stunned. Herbie begs Rose to marry him and give up show business, and Louise urges her to accept Herbie’s offer. Instead, Rose announces to a horrified Louise that she will make her a star (EVERYTHING’S COMING UP ROSES).
Rose starts work on a new act, MADAME ROSE’S TOREADOREABLES which is nothing more than a transparent reworking of the Baby June show. When Louise rips off the blonde wig that Rose has provided and announces, “Momma, I am not June”, Rose tries to reassure her (TOGETHER, WHEREVER WE GO). After a period of little work, Herbie finally gets the act – now “Rose Louise and Her Hollywood Blondes” – a two-week booking. To everyone’s surprise, the venue turns out to be a burlesque house. When Rose discovers this, she is adamant that the troupe withdraw. But Louise emerges as the voice of practicality and they accept the job. Sharing a dressing room with a stripper is an eye-opener for Louise, as she learns that you don’t need talent to be a burlesque star (YOU GOTTA GET A GIMMICK).
Rose has agreed to marry Herbie at the end of this their contract at the house of burlesque. She and Louise are packing to leave when the theater manager announces his star attraction has been arrested for “soliciting” in the drugstore next door. Rose immediately suggests that Louise performs the star strip. She begins to plan Louise’s costume and music, but is interrupted by a revolted Herbie, who says he is leaving forever. Rose pushes her frightened daughter onstage, where Louise shyly sings and, before the audience’s eyes, evolves into strip-teaser Gypsy Rose Lee (LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU).
Now an established star, Gypsy is at home in her dressing room suite at Minsky’s Burlesque in New York. Increasingly unneeded by her now “successful” daughter, Rose bristles at Gypsy’s independence. The two have a heated argument, which ends when Rose leaves, slamming the door behind her. Alone on the darkened, empty stage she reconsiders her life (ROSE’S TURN). Gypsy enters from stage right where she has been watching and tells Rose that she would have been something had she been given the chance. Rose tells Gypsy her latest dream and they leave, reconciled. Rose is finally ready to let Gypsy fly.
Songs cut from this production include: (IF I HAD) THREE WISHES FOR CHRISTMAS, LET’S GO TO THE MOVIES, MAMA’S TALKIN’ SOFT, WHO NEEDS HIM?, SMILE GIRLS and NICE, SHE AIN’T.
Purchases from Amazon.com
From left to right above: 1. Gypsy 1959 Original Broadway Cast CD (50th Anniversary Edition with Extra Tracks). 2. Gypsy 1962 Film Soundtrack CD. 3. Gypsy 1973 Original London Cast CD. 4. Gypsy 1989 Broadway Revival Cast CD. 5. Gypsy 1993 Television Soundtrack CD.
From left to right above: 1. Gypsy by Gypsy Rose Lee. 2. <Mainly on Directing: Gypsy, West Side Story, and Other Musicals by Arthur Laurents. 3. Gypsy 1962 Script. 4. Gypsy Vocal Selections. 5. Gypsy Vocal Score.