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Gypsy review at Curve Leicester

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Gypsy is one of the greatest of all Broadway classics, yet it is the most rarely seen in the UK. It only reached the West End for its only run in 1973, some 14 years after it premiered on Broadway, and has rarely been produced over here since. Yet in the past 21 years it has had three separate Broadway revivals, with Tyne Daly (1991), Bernadette Peters (2003) and Patti LuPone (2008).

I missed the first West End run (which subsequently transferred to Broadway to become its first revival there with Angela Lansbury), but have seen each of those subsequent Broadway revivals, so for Caroline O’Connor to be in their league is no small accomplishment. She brings not just her powerful lungs but, more importantly, a great heart to the role of the seemingly heartless Madame Rose, mining the tragedy of the woman for all her self-delusions and abandonment issues.

This is a remorseless portrait of a tough nut of a monstrous stage mother who finally cracks as she realises how much damage she has caused. As she steers her daughters through the vaudeville circuit in search of fame she is deserted by the younger one and succeeds only in taking the other on a depressing slide towards the arse-end of showbusiness (in every sense), as Louise finds a kind of celebrity and fame as stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.

It’s a devastating picture, and Caroline O’Connor delivers Rose’s Turn with a ferocious intensity that brings the show to an explosive climax. Not all of those dark beats are matched elsewhere in Paul Kerryson’s production. The waxed chorus boys in tiny briefs are a major error to accompany Louise’s own turn in Let Me Entertain You, where Victoria Hamilton-Barritt is superbly demonstrating that less is more while the boys only succeed in showing a lot more to much less effect.

But where it counts, this Gypsy scores (and frequently soars), with O’Connor quite beautifully matched in the understated warmth of the touching, truthful performance from David Fleeshman as Herbie, who loves her with all his heart but which finally breaks, as did mine.

Production Information

Curve, Leicester, March 10 to April 15, 2012

Arthur Laurents, Jule Styne (music), Stephen Sondheim (lyrics)
Paul Kerryson
Cast includes
Caroline O’Connor, David Fleeshman, Victoria Hamilton-Barritt, Daisy Maywood, Lucinda Shaw, Jane Fowler, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Jason Winter
Running time
2hrs 40mins

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