Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Review: Gypsy - Savoy Theatre

I had wanted to see Gypsy for a long time. A really long time. In fact, even when I mentioned it in my Now Playing/ Wishlist back in May, it had already been on my mental wishlist for a while.

As a little joint birthday celebration, Tom and I decided to treat ourselves to a theatre trip at the beginning of August. There were so many things we wanted to see, but Gypsy was my top choice, and although Tom hadn’t heard of it he was happy to trust my judgement and just go with it.

Gypsy is a 1959 musical based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, a famous striptease artist. The show more specifically focuses on Gypsy Rose Lee’s relationship with her mother, Rose, and the lengths she goes to in setting up her children for a life in show business. Since the original production, Gypsy has boasted four Broadway revivals, various tours and two London productions (including this one).

I was pretty sure I was going to enjoy this production, but I had no idea just how much. Let me try to explain. When I’m really impressed/inspired/captivated by a performance I tend to get quite emotional. It doesn’t matter whether the piece itself is uplifting, depressing, hilarious or moving; I will well up regardless. In short, it’s the highest accolade I can give, and Gypsy hit it throughout.

A big part of what attracted me to seeing the show was Imelda Staunton. I saw her in another Chichester Festival Theatre transfer back in 2012, when she gave an incredible portrayal of Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd. If Staunton’s Mrs Lovett earned her an Olivier award, they’re going to have to invent something on another level for her performance in Gypsy. The thing is, it seems somewhat belittling to even call Staunton’s work a performance, when the magic of her portrayal is not just that she's a great actress, but she completely embodies Rose in a way that is both fascinating and exhausting to watch. You only had to look at the two standing ovations she received during the show to realise that she was utterly compelling from start to finish.

In fact, Staunton was so overwhelming that it took me a while afterwards to distinguish that the rest of the cast had also delivered exceptional performances. Their strengths almost seemed average in comparison.

However, Lara Pulver’s Louise was anything but average. It was hard to believe that the subdued and awkward Louise was depicted by the same person as the assertive and ostentatious Gypsy Rose Lee. As well as proving herself as a versatile actress, Pulver maintained a strong vocal performance throughout, from the sweet melodies in Little Lamb, to the raunchy tones in Let Me Entertain You.

Peter Davidson provided the perfect counterpart to Staunton’s Rose with his blindly-devoted Herbie. His gradual build-up of frustration was well-balanced and his one explosive moment compensated for his comparably weaker vocals.

Although the character Tulsa only really has one moment to shine during the show, Dan Burton deserves a mention for his impressive execution of All I Need is the Girl.

And, of course, I can’t review the show without commending the kids. They were hilarious and really extenuated the comedic moments in the equally funny choreography.

One final thing I really liked about Gypsy as a musical is its ending. I bored Tom the whole way home rambling on about endings, but it’s something that’s so hard to get right, in any form of narrative. Without giving too much away, I love how Gypsy’s ending isn’t a real conclusion and leaves things somewhat open, whilst still feeling complete. The staging of this moment was also spot-on, and finalised what had been an excellent set.

Gypsy is on at the Savoy Theatre until the end of November, and I cannot encourage you enough to see it if you get the chance. 


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