Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Greatest MOTHER of them all...Sorry, Mom!

Mom and Dad, Circa 1960
Louise "Gypsy Rose Lee" Hovick: You really would have been something, Mother.
Rose Hovick: Think so?
Louise "Gypsy Rose Lee" Hovick: If you had had someone to push you like I had.
Rose Hovick: If I could've been, I would've been. And that's show business.



Happy Mother's Day!
I hope all of you Mom's, sons and daughters had a glorious day. 
I spoke with my mom who is in South Carolina, and still working(!), this am. 

For those whose mom's have passed on, take a moment to reflect on the contributions they made to your lives. Nancy Giles did a brilliant piece on Mother's Day this morning on CBS Sunday morning. She talked about this day from the perspective of someone who's mom had passed away years ago. I feel the same way on Father's Day. Those of us who have lost a parent know what I'm talking about. The constant reminders leading up to the day. Well, I'm proud that my mom is still with us and today, I'm going to focus on a Mother who will always be with us. 


Gypsy Rose Lee in 1956
This Mother one of the most iconic moms ever, Mama Rose!
She comes to us via Gypsy Rose Lee.
Actress, burlesque entertainer, and writer, Gypsy's 1957 memoir included a scathing portrait of her domineering mother, and was made into the stage musical and film, Gypsy
With music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Arthur Laurents.  

Gypsy is loosely based on the memoirs but focuses on her mother, Rose, whose name has become synonymous with "the ultimate show business mother." 
June Havoc, here as Miss Hannigan in the Broadway musical 'Annie',… (Burnett/AP )
It follows the dreams and efforts of Rose to raise two daughters to perform onstage and casts an affectionate eye on the hardships of show business life. 

The character of Louise is based on Lee, and the character of June is based on Lee's sister, the actress June Havoc. 
 The musical contains many songs that became popular standards, including "Small World," "Everything's Coming up Roses", "Some People", "Let Me Entertain You", and "Rose's Turn". It is frequently considered one of the crowning achievements of the mid-20th century's conventional musical theatre art form, often called the "book musical".
A musical based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee was a project of producer David Merrick and Ethel Merman.
  
Merrick had read a chapter of Lee's memoirs in Harper's Magazine and approached Lee to obtain the rights. Jerome Robbins was interested, and wanted Leland Hayward as co-producer; Merman also wanted Hayward to produce her next show.
Merrick and Hayward approached Arthur Laurents to write the book. As he relates, Laurents initially was not interested until he saw that the story was one of parents living their children's lives. Composers Irving Berlin and Cole Porter declined the project. Finally, Robbins asked Stephen Sondheim, who agreed to do it. Sondheim had worked with Robbins and Laurents on the musical West Side Story. However, Merman did not want an unknown composer, and wanted Jule Styne to write the music. Although Sondheim initially refused to write only the lyrics, he was persuaded by Oscar Hammerstein to accept the job. The creative team was in place.

Rose Hovick divorced her husband leaving the family financially distressed. 
The girls earned the family's income by appearing in vaudeville where June Hovick's talent shone while her older sister remained in the background. At the age of 16, June married a boy in the act named Bobby Reed, whom Mother Rose had arrested and then attempted to murder at the police station. She aimed a pistol at Reed and pulled the trigger, but the safety was on. 
Rose Hovick was arrested and Reed was released. 
June Hovick left the act in 1930 and went on to a brief career in marathon dancing and then acting.
This is the kind of stuff musicals are made of!

And from that moment on, from Merman to LuPone and everywhere in between, every musical comedy actress at one moment or another wanted to sink her teeth into this iconic role.
Perhaps Merman's most legendary performance opened on May 21, 1959 at The Broadway Theatre.

Tryouts began April 13, 1959 in Philadelphia PA
Ran for five weeks

Opened May 21, 1959 at the Broadway Theatre
 

Closed March 25, 1961; Ran for 702 performances
Produced by David Merrick and Leland Hayward

As mentioned, Gypsy was based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee and starred Merman as her
Sandra Church, Merman, Jack Klugman
domineering stage mother Rose Hovick. In the New York Post, Richard Watts called her "a brilliant actress," and Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times said "she gives an indomitable performance, both as actress and singer." Despite the acclaim, Merman lost the Tony Award to her close friend Mary Martin in The Sound of Music and jokingly quipped, "How are you going to buck a nun?" 
 In analyzing the character of Rose, Clive Barnes described her as "bossy, demanding, horrific...."Rich described Rose as "a monster". Critic Walter Kerr commented that though Rose is a monster, she must be liked and understood. Patti LuPone describes Rose: "She has tunnel vision, she's driven, and she loves her kids.... And she is a survivor. I do not see her as a monster at all — she may do monstrous things, but that does not make a monster."
Sondheim
Sondheim has said of the character: "The fact that she's monstrous to her daughters and the world is secondary... She's a very American character, a gallant figure and a life force."
Sondheim also noted, "Yet the end of Gypsy is not entirely bleak. Louise comes out a star and forgives her mother. There is hope for her. Rose does confront who she is in 'Rose's Turn.'
There is a catharsis.
It's not Rodgers and Hammerstein, but you feel maybe the mother and daughter will come to an understanding and maybe triumph over Rose's craziness and Louise's bitterness."

Bernadette Peters' take of the character was different: "Rose was a woman who was traumatized by her own mother leaving her at an early age. I think that longing for acceptance is what fuels all her ambition. In the end, when she confronts herself in Rose's Turn, she realizes she has failed her daughter just as her own mother failed her...and that destroys Rose. There is a vulnerability to Rose that makes her human, not just some loud and cartoonish parody of a stage mother."

On May 22nd, 1959, Brooks Atkinson wrote in the New York Times, " Since Ethel Merman is the head woman in Gypsy, which opened at the Broadway last evening, nothing can go wrong. She would not permit Gypsy to be anything less than the most satisfying musical of
 the season."
 
Then there was the movie!  Rosalind Russell and her husband, theatre producer Frederick Brisson, were hoping to do a straight dramatic version of the story based directly on the memoir by Gypsy Rose Lee, but the book was irrevocably tied up in the rights to the play. Coincidentally, Russell had just starred in the film version of the Leonard Spigelgass play A Majority of One at Warner Bros, which Brisson had produced, and all parties came together to make Gypsy, with Russell starring, LeRoy directing, and Spigelgass writing the highly faithful adaptation of the Arthur Laurents stage book.

Although Russell had starred and sung in the 1953 stage musical Wonderful Town and the 1955 film The Girl Rush, the Gypsy score was beyond her. Her own gravelly singing voice was artfully blended with that of contralto Lisa Kirk. Kirk's ability to mimic Russell's voice is showcased in the final number "Rose's Turn", which is a clever blend of both of their voices. Kirk's full vocal version was released on the original soundtrack, although it is not the version used in the finished film. 

In later years, Russell's original tryout vocals were rediscovered on scratchy acetate discs and included as bonus tracks on the CD reissue of the film's soundtrack.
 Marni Nixon had dubbed Natalie Wood's singing voice in West Side Story the previous year, but Wood did her own singing in Gypsy. While Wood recorded a separate version of "Little Lamb" for the soundtrack album, in the film she sang the song "live" on the set. Other songs performed live were "Mr. Goldstone, I Love You" and the reprise of "Small World," both sung by Russell (not Kirk).

It didn't end there! London came a' calling and Angela Lansbury was on her way to London, Broadway, and her third Tony Award! Three women won Tony Awards for playing Mama Rose in Gypsy. 

Two did not. 
 This production of Gypsy opened in the West End at  thePiccadilly Theatre in May of 1973 and ran for 300 performances. Angela said this was a real breakthrough for her.They rehearsed in a drill hall in Clapham, which is now considered very "in," but in those days was not. It was due to the encouragement and help of Stephen, Arthur and Jule Styne in London during the rehearsal period that she managed to work the role up to the point where everyone was pleased.
She had to learn a lot in a short space of time, because here she was doing something she had always said she wouldn't do, which was to follow in a role that had been created originally by Ethel Merman. She was very worried and trepidatious, as you can imagine. But they gave her every possible bit of encouragement, and Stephen particularly made it possible for her to come through.
Gypsy opened on September 23, 1974 at the Winter Garden Theatre and closed on January 4, 1975. Ran 120 performances. 
 Matthew Bourne said he was 13 when he first saw Angela Lansbury as Mama Rose in Gypsy, and it changed his life. It captured the possibility of the theatre and what it could do.  
Gypsy has been referred to as the greatest American musical by numerous critics and writers, among them Ben Brantley and Frank Rich.
Rich even calls it the American musical theatre's answer to King Lear. Theater critic Clive Barnes wrote that "Gypsy is one of the best of musicals..." and described the character of Rose as "one of the few truly complex characters in the American musical...."



Broadway called out to Gypsy again in 1989 and Tyne Daly answered that call and also won a Tony! I saw this production 6 Times!


Linda and Tyne
Daly left Gypsy in July 1990, with Linda Lavin (saw her in this as well) playing Rose, and returned in April 1991 through closing in July 1991.
 On November 17th, 1989, Frank Rich wrote in The New York Times, "If someone asked me to name the best Broadway musical, I'd gladly equivocate on any side of a debate embracing ''Guys and Dolls,'' ''My Fair Lady,'' ''Carousel,'' ''Porgy and Bess'' and - well, you know the rest. 
 But I've always had only one choice in the category of favorite musical.
 It is ''Gypsy,'' and as I sat at its scorching new revival starring Tyne Daly, once again swept up in its goosebump-raising torrents of laughter and tears." When Tyne Daly came to Broadway to play Mama Rose in "Gypsy" after years on television's "Cagney and Lacey" as Mary Beth Lacey, the cop from Queens, theater people thought they'd seen everything.


 But they hadn't: She went on to win a Tony Award as best actress in a musical.
 Previews began October, 27 1989; Ran for 23 preview performances
Opened November 16, 1989 at the St. James Theatre
Closed January 6, 1991
Re-opened April 18, 1991 at the Marquis Theatre.

 Frank Rich did not have the same excitement when Linda Lavin came into the role. 

He wrote in his review in the New York Times dated Septmber 18th, 1990, "So why is it that Ms. Daly's Rose was a triumph and Ms. Lavin's Rose, which was officially presented to the press over the weekend, proves a washout? As Rose herself says in ''Gypsy,'' ''That's show business.'' If the theater were an exact science, it would be dead. 
One of the many moving stories told in Arthur Laurents's book for ''Gypsy'' is that a gawky, no-talent child performer in a bankrupt vaudeville act would grow up against all odds to be Gypsy Rose Lee, Minsky's Queen of Burlesque.


 Anything can happen on a stage, and that includes Ms. Lavin's odd predicament at the St. James. This actress works hard, with ample resources of concentration and energy, yet she rarely seems a participant in the pulsating production (still in pristine shape, by the way) spinning around her. Ms. Lavin - presumably in league with Mr. Laurents, who serves as director - has a method of sorts for attacking her assignment. The actress comes on talking very fast as she connives to get her daughters out of Seattle and onto the Orpheum circuit. Whenever she hatches a new scheme, she abruptly slows down, her button eyes flickering out of focus, to give the audience an intimate glimpse of her mind's shifting gears. But if such painstaking kitchen-sink realism can pay off in a musical like ''Gypsy'' - in which the emotions are uncommonly real and primal, to be sure, but the characters are extravagantly theatrical - Ms. Lavin never makes the case. By trying to create a lifelike Rose, she ends up, in the work's epic context, looking smaller than life." 

Due to the success of the Daly production and also due to the fact that Laurents was never truly happy with the Russell film version, it was announced in 1992 that it was going to be filmed yet again! This time for television and starring Bette Midler! She won an Emmy for her portrayal of Mama Rose. 
The film was broadcast by CBS on December 12, 1993 and then released in theaters in foreign markets. It was released on videotape and laserdisc by RHI Entertainment in 1994 and on DVD by Pioneer Entertainment in 2000 and Lionsgate Home Entertainment in 2005.
 At age 13, Bernadette Peters appeared as one of the "Hollywood Blondes" and was an understudy for "Dainty June" in the second national tour of Gypsy.
42 years later, she would be playing Mama Rose on Broadway and receiving a Tony nomination. She lost to Marissa Jaret Winokur as Tracy Turnblatt in Hairspray
Ben Brantley wrote in The New York Times on May 2nd, 2003, "
YOU can tear down the black crepe, boys. Take the hearse back to the garage, and start popping Champagne corks. 
Momma's pulled it off, after all -- big time.
Playing a role that few people thought would ever fit her and shadowed by vultures predicting disaster, Bernadette Peters delivered the surprise coup of many a Broadway season in the revival of ''Gypsy'' that opened last night at the Shubert Theater."

A few weeks ago, on SMASH, Everything came to a head as Eileen (Anjelica Huston), Derek (Jack Davenport) and the team presented "Marilyn The Musical" to would-be investors. Ivy (Megan Hilty) was under pressure to perform, while her mother, Broadway star Leigh Conroy (special guest Bernadette Peters), undermined her at every turn. Karen (Katharine McPhee)had to decide between the workshop and a meeting with a big-time music producer. Julia (Debra Messing) and Michael (guest star Will Chase) also had to face up to the consequences of their actions. The highlight of the show happened when Bernadette performed a number from Gypsy!


In 2008, Gypsy made its way to Broadway yet again, this time with Patti LuPone in the driver's seat and she won her second Tony thirty years after winning her first for Evita!
 Following the Ravinia Festival production of Gypsy, LuPone and author Arthur Laurents mended a decade-long rift and she was cast in the City Center Encores! Summer Stars production of the show. Laurents directed LuPone in Gypsy for a 22 performance run (July 9, 2007 – July 29, 2007) at City Center. This production of Gypsy then transferred to Broadway, opening March 27, 2008 at the St. James Theatre (also where Tyne Daly starred.
LuPone won the Outer Critics Circle Award, Drama League Award, Drama Desk Award, and Tony Award for her performance in Gypsy. It closed on January 11, 2009...I'm sure to return sometime soon with yet another diva in the role! 

 The on-again, off-again movie adaptation of "Gypsy," with Barbra Streisand in the lead, is officially on again. Universal announced  that the movie project is moving forward with "Downton Abbey" creator and writer Julian Fellowes coming on board to pen the screenplay.
 "Gypsy" will be produced by Streisand and Joel Silver, but a director has not been announced. 
 Streisand -- whose most recent film roles have put her on Focker Isle -- hasn't performed in a movie musical since "Yentl" in 1983. While there is little doubt about whether Streisand can vocally pull off the role of Mama Rose, her possible casting brings up the question of whether an actress who has performed the role on stage might be a better choice.
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Thank you all the artists mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given and continue to give to the world!



Your devoted fan,



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May 31
7:30pm
CHICO'S HOUSE OF JAZZ, 631 Lake Ave., Asbury Park, NJ 07712
RICHARD SKIPPER: AT LAST
ReVision Theatre and the City of Asbury Park couldn't have a better summer kickoff! After introducing ReVision Theatre to the great City of Asbury Park 5 years ago, Richard Skipper returns in "Richard Skipper: At Last". Richard is the perfect start to the musical summer of 2012 in Asbury Park. For more information visit www.revisiontheatre.org or call us at 732-455-3059. To purchase $15.00 General Admission tickets please visit http://revisiontheatre.tix.com.
This show is not to be missed! Musical Direction by: Rich Siegel


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!    
                 
Tomorrow's blog will be..YOU TELL ME! I'm open to suggestions!!


Thank you, to all the mentioned in this blog!



  
Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!






TILL TOMORROW...HERE'S TO AN ARTS FILLED DAY
Richard Skipper, Richard@RichardSkipper.com                            

This Blog is dedicated to Harlan Boll and Al Koenig! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! THANK YOU!!








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