GYPSY

Matinee, Wednesday 29 October 2014, Chichester Festival Theatre

Review by Emma Shane

© November 2014

 

Anything Goes, Annie Get Your Gun, and, Gypsy are three great musicals which have all become classics, which were all written with one leading lady in mind, the legendary Ethel Merman. Of course there were many other Broadway musicals written for her, but (with the possible exception of Hello Dolly, which doesn’t necessarily count, since Merman didn’t originate the starring role) none of them quite achieved the lasting success of those three, even if some of them (such as DuBarry Was A Lady, and, Call Me Madam) were hits in their day. Out of all the musicals written for the mighty Merman, these three, possibly partly because they have become such classics, might be the ones that least have Merman’s particular style-less style stamped all over them.  Now when it comes to musicals written for Ethel Merman, with the exception of Annie Get Your Gun, I kind of really want to see them done in a way that reflects the way those songs were originally sung. The result is that much as I love the musicals written for the mighty Merman, I tend to avoid seeing productions of them, unless I am sure they are going to be done the way I want to see them done. Of course few singer-actresses actually have a big enough voice to do that style-less style with conviction. Well one might accept that it just doesn’t happen, but twenty years ago I was hopelessly spoilt by being lucky enough to witness a startlingly brilliant Mermanesque performance, that actually worked, namely The Discovering Lost Musicals production of Red Hot & Blue, followed in subsequent years by some equally brilliant performances in their productions of: Something For The Boys, Panama Hattie, and DuBarry Was A Lady.  And they are all such a hard act to follow. Of course I have seen a few others. There was Kim Criswell’s excellent performance in Anything Goes at Grange Park Opera, which was also as good as it gets. I also saw Criswell in an abridged version of Call Me Madam, which was very well sung, but somehow managed not to be all that memorable, possibly being abridged  had something to do with that. I have on one other occasion gone to see a Merman musical, knowing that I felt sure the lead actress wouldn’t be quite my idea of an A number one sock belter, namely seeing Beverley Klein in a production of Call Me Madam at The Gatehouse in Highgate. Which bring me to this production of Gypsy, when I first heard about it I wasn’t interested, it’s Chichester,, a bit of a way to travel (from London) and Imelda Staunton (who I saw as a rather good Adelaide in Guys and Dolls some years ago, isn’t exactly my idea of a belter). But then, by chance (while doing a google search about a new Cbeebies  TV programme), I read who was playing one of the other roles in the company, a small but important one (one of the strippers) , I decided  to go and see this show, after all Chichester does have a reputation for pretty decent productions.

Gypsy Is one of those legendary musicals where even bits of the script have become well known in their own right, with people not always even knowing what show the lines come from. Most notably the line “Sing Out Louise”, Gypsy Rose Lee’s real name was Rose Louise Hovick and she was originally known by her middle name of Louise.  Having read both the book on which this show is actually based (Gypsy Rose Lee’s memoirs), plus Eric Preminger’s biography of Gypsy Rose Lee in later years., I did have some idea of what the show was about, and was this able to pick up on some of the subtle references, such as noticing the blanket coats, before there were explicitly mentioned.

 

So what of the show. As Gypsy is such a classic, I don’t really think a complete blow by blow account is necessary.

The opening scene, with the children’s ensemble dressed for a variety of acts looks awful to modern eyes, but presumably it is meant to. Jimmy Chisholm is by far the most charismatic figure on the stage as Uncle Jacko an entertainer and possibly producer for whose show the children are supposed to be auditioning. A few members of the company have to portray the parents of these children. I particularly noticed the mother of a boy who was playing the clarinet.

Among the children on the stage are Georgia Pemberton and Holly Hazelton in the roles of Baby June and Baby Louise respectively.  The key to the scene is supposed to be Imelda Staunton’s big entrance through the auditorium, her first line being that legendary line “Sing out Louise”. Imelda Staunton, perhaps because it suits her abilities as a performer, rather plays this line down, it is delivered rather quietly, and her entrance lacks presence. Once on the stage, she comes into her own and makes her presence felt, but it’s not immediate.  Meanwhile the two young girls come across as kind of cute, particularly Georgia Pemberton, though she also speaks with an annoyingly squeaky voice, which makes one think of the legendary child star who played that part in the 1973 London Production, that is presumably intentional.

The next scene, finds them at home, and this the only moment where Holly Hazelton really gets a moment in the limelight, as Rose-Louise talking to her mother, before bedtime.  Then once she exits, it is time for Staunton to deliver one of the classic songs, I Had A Dream.  Now much as I would love to hear that song sung with a bit more power, I felt that by singing a rather quieter rendition of the song, Imelda Staunton clearly sang it in the way that was right for her vocally. I adore hearing good sock belters, but if a singer isn’t a natural sock belter, then I’d rather hear them sing the song well another way, than try to do it in the original way badly. I was impressed by Staunton’s acting of the scene with Pop, played perfectly satisfactorily by Harry Dickman.

Next up a scene in some producers office, Rose trying to wrangle a slot for her kids in a show, when Herbie, a former agent, currently a candy salesman enters and helps. From the moment he enters we see that, as Herbie, Kevin Whatley is an excellent actor, with a good deal of presence, he steps into the scene and our attention pretty much immediately focuses on him, or rather on both him and Staunton. I do like to see lead actors who can make their presence felt from the start. of their first scene in a show.  Time for Staunton to deliver another classic song, Some People.  She acts the song very well. Her singing is satisfactory, once again she sings it in the manner that is right for her, and once again I couldn’t help feeling I would really like to hear that song  sung with a bigger voice, like it was done originally, but I am pleased that Staunton does it in the way that best suits her voice,

Next we got a scene with a car, that Rose, the two girls and various young boys get into, clearly symbolising going on the road with an act.

And then it is into the number Baby June and Her Newsboys. Georgia Pemberton is still speaking in quite a squeaky voice, though she speaks more clearly than she did before, while Holly Hazelton is only just noticeable among the “Newsboys.  At that number’s conclusion we come to a very clever piece of staging on Stephen Mear and company’s part., the Timelapse Transition.

Pemberton addresses the audience, saying that performers usually thank their parents for their success, but tonight she is going to thank “Uncle Sam”. This leads into the classic number Let Me Entertain You, with all the children dressed patriotically, Hazelton is in a particularly over the top costume and then Pemberton ending the number doing the splits. Suddenly as they all start dancing again, and then there are strange strobe lighting effects, during the course of the strobe lighting effects the children exit, and various grown up members of the company enter in their place, wearing very similar costumes,  once again the number ends with Gemma Sutton as June doing the splits, with a look on her face that seems to imply why is she still having to do that at her age,  Lara Pulver in the role of Gypsy Rose Lee herself (at this point known as Rose-Louise, and referred to as Louise) has a highly interesting subtle entrance, for such a key character in a musical, she is just there dressed in a bigger version of the ridiculous outfit that Hazelton was last wearing.  It isn’t until the following scene that  Pulver makes herself noticed.

In a hotel room, Pulver is sitting up on a bed, wrapped in a blanket. Around the room on the floor are various men “The boys” from the act, also wrapped in blankets, trying to sleep.  Pulver is sitting there saying it is a beautiful day, clearly wanting everyone to get up, but they all apparently just want to sleep, as it’s one of the few days when they are not travelling, or performing or rehearsing, and so can have a lie in.  Presently June enters, and says that now they’ve woken Momma up, and Rose is in the bathroom making coffee.  Presently Rose enters with the coffee, and various other people fetch a few other bits and pieces, including a cake and Eggrolls, with which to celebrate Rose Louise’s birthday. The boys point out that Rose Louise has ten candles on her cake, and did last year as well. We all know she is older than that, it is just a little touch to highlight the fact that the two girls were never quite sure of their actual ages, because Mama Rose had various forged birth certificates.  It is amusing how the birthday celebrations get overshadowed by Herbie announcing an important producer Mr Goldstone who is paying a visit. Both Staunton and Pulver act jolly well. Staunton acts her way through Have An Eggroll Mr Goldstone with conviction, while Pulver is touching with Little Lamb.

Staunton and Whateley are both entertaining in a restaurant scene that leads into the song You’ll Never Get Away From Me. As per usual Staunton does the job, singing the song in the way that is right for her voice, not necessarily the manner in which the song was originally designed to be sung, but it works satisfactorily. 

We then get a rather funny scene in which “the kid”s are auditioning for an important producer. This involves both their farm act, with Pulver as one half of the cow. Although Gemma Sutton is effectively leading the number, it is of course Staunton’s acting that gives it its major comic value, when she says to wait there is more, and they go into Broadway. The cow is particularly amusing of course.

Sitting outside the producers office, a scene in which June explains to her sister that the producer thought she had it in her to be a serious actress, if she went to school for a year, and he offered to pay for her to do so, only Mama  Rose turned it down, the pair, Pulver and Sutton sing a song which has become one of the show’s classics, a song known to many of us (who haven’t seen Gypsy before) thanks largely to the revue Side By Side By Sondheim, and  of course the anniversary gala performances of that show. While it is great to see the song in its original context, sung by two younger actresses, perfectly satisfactorily; I couldn’t help but miss the more telling nuances that some of the more mature actresses who have sung this number in Side By Side By Sondheim and that revue’s galas have brought to the number (people like: Barbara Ferris, Louise Gold, Millicent Martin, Julia McKenzie, and Liz Robertson).

Dan Burton has a starring moment, dancing wonderfully when he sings, along with Pulver, All I Need Is The Girl. His performance perhaps benefits from being one of the least well known songs in the score. Of course it has been used in the odd revue and such like, but it is not done as often as some of the other songs.  The result is it is easier for him to make the song his own.  (I have a vague recollection that Gavin Lee or someone like that might have sung it in a revue. There were several Sondheim revues at the much missed Bridewell Theatre (in the days when it was a professional theatre).

The first act of Gypsy seems very long, I get the distinct impression that it is rather longer than the second act. There is a clear reason for this, traditionally the first act needs to end on a cliff-hanger, something that will make the audience want to come back for the second act, not least to find out what happens next.  And the only appropriate place in Gypsy for this to occur is the moment, at a railway station, when June (and the boys) leaves the act, and Mama Rose hones in on Rose Louise promising to make her a star, not only because this works plot-wise, but because score-wise it is also the moment where you get the song most likely to be a potential showstopper, and it is desirable not to land any principal actors with the task of following a showstopper, especially an Ethel Merman showstopper, which this originally was.  (similarly: Anything Goes ended Act 1 with it’s title song, Red Hot & Blue with the amazing Ridin High – well it was amazing when The Discovering Lost Musicals Charitable Trust did that show twenty years ago this month).  In Gypsy we have Everythings Coming Up Roses. A magnificent song, but one which most illustrates this production’s strengths and flaws. Or rather this significant song, highlights Staunton’s strengths and weaknesses.  Her strengths are that she acts the song, well, sings the lyrics clearly, and most importantly does the song in the way that best suits her voice. Now Staunton’s voice, though perfectly reasonable by most singer actress standards is not huge. Which presents a bit of a problem, because Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim wrote this song with the intention that it be belted over the footlights like a baseball coach belting  a fly. Staunton clearly does not have the ability to sustain the song in that way. So taking a leaf out of Julia McKenzie’s style, she handles most of it at a normal level, and then just ramps it (and/or her microphone) up for the last verse, or indeed the last half a verse). Julia McKenzie used that trick many a time to give the audience an impression that she had belted a song, when she had not.  Staunton first came to note as a singer-actress in musical theatre, first as Mckenzie’s understudy, and later successor  in The National Theatre’s production of Guys And Dolls. There is an obvious similarity in their performance style, as singers, although as an actress Staunton is very much her own person. But if anyone in the audience is paying proper attention to the song will notice the trick. Because she is a good singer, but not  an A Number 1 Belter, Staunton is right to handle the song rather more toned down, because that is right for her. and it is better that she sings the song well in the way that is right for her vocal abilities, than attempt and fail to do it in a style not right for her. I remember once seeing Jessica Martin, who it must be said has a fair amount of vocal power, attempt Ethel Merman’s styless style of singing (in Blame It On My Youth) and the result was, really not exactly very good. Jessica Martin might be a good imitator, but that one just didn’t work. One might just accept that no one could do any belt song written for Ethel Merman, including this one, in the styless style in which they were originally sock belted, were it not for the fact that there are a few, very few, singer-actresses who can truly pull that sort of thing off.  Having seen what Louise Plowright did with Let Me Sing & I’m Happy in White Christmas, Kim Criswell with various bits and pieces (including I Got Rhythm), and Louise Gold on a number of occasions (including four Lost Musicals that had originally starred Merman), one knows that it is sometimes possible to get this stuff sung “as it was intended”. But I knew on seeing Staunton in Gypsy what we were going to get. I’m just glad she and the directors were sensible in having her sing the song in the way that was right for her, since at least that way the song wasn’t murdered, it was done as best it could be done in this production, it just wasn’t quite as specular a hit is it must have originally been.

The second act opens, somewhere in the middle of nowhere, where Rose and Herbie are rehearsing the new act, Madame Rose’s Toreadorables. They have girls as the supports now, after the experience with the boys deserting the act. However, the act isn’t working, after all Rose-Louise is not the kind of talent that June was, and she’s not blonde either. So how about making the supporting girls blond instead? So they become Rose Louise And Her Hollywood Blondes.  Staunton, Whately and Pulver trio another of the classic songs from the show, Together Whereever We Go.  It’s a great number, they all perform it well, and make one manage to forget, at least for the time being, that it was a number Ethel Merman originally led on Broadway. The number actually reminds me a little of two other songs that were written for Ethel Merman and company during that lady’s mega Broadway career, namely Mutual Admiration Society from Happy Hunting, and Irving Berlin’s great scene-change anthem There’s No Business Like Showbusiness. As those two songs pre-date Gypsy, one wonders if that is intentional on the part of Styne and Sondheim.

We come to what just has to be my favourite scene in this entire production. The bit when Herbie accidentally books the act into a burlesque theatre. We are sideways on, seeing the “stage” from the back/side. rowards back stage left. down stage right is Tessie Tura’s dressingroom. As the curtain rises, a woman, with an impressive headdress takes her place standing on the “stage” bit of the set (as though standing for lighting rehearsals or something.  She stays motionless in the background for sometime during the scene before exiting.  I wondered who was playing that part. The girls, and Rose-Louise are thrilled to be back in a proper theatre, at last. Mama Rose is horrified at finding out what this theatre really is, but as Rose-Louise points out, they need the money, so they had better play the booking.  It isn’t long before we meet Tessie, along with the magnificent Mazeppa, who gets in a cutting line before stomping off.  Rose-Louise has to share a dressing room with Tessie, and makes the best of it, by offering to sew her a new costume (for payment of course). The man running the theatre acted very well, from the programme I am not entirely certain who this character is, it could have been Jimmy Chisholm’s Cigar, but I am unsure. Anyway whoever he was he came across pretty well.  Tessie is cross because she is asked by the man to deliver some lines, not something she does. Anita Louise Combe comes across well as a disgruntled stiptease artiste. She suggests that Mazeppa does them. A little later Mazeppa, in her rather glorious “Roman” costume stomps in crossly, growling that she doesn’t do lines. Louise Gold has a true flair for comedy and playing any part with conviction. She also has a strong stage presence, which she immediately makes felt.  Gloriously magnificent as ever, it’s a shame she only has one scene (and one number), but, as one might expect, she makes the most of it. She is dressed in a short dance skirt type thing,, golden in colour, with a short top of similar colour over her breasts. On her feet she wears high heels, and on her calves pretend roman style, I am not quite sure what you call them. Her headress is equally amazing. A wig of long reddish-brown curls that flow down her back (reminding us fleetingly of her once glorious chestnut mane, long since cut), on top of this is a pretend Roman-style helmet with a plume of yellow feathers. An impressive costume, that seems to suit this Amazonian warrioress of a performer well. Joined by Julie Legrand as Electra, the three strippers demonstrate their art or rather their gimmicks (they don’t actually take anything off, but then they are all already pretty scantily dressed) with You Gotta Get A Gimmick.  Yes of course Julie Legrand has lights on key parts of her costume, and yes Anita Louise Coombe moves gracefully, but I don’t know if it is just me, or if it is the power of her performance, and shear stage presence in her only scene. But I felt that Louise Gold as the trumpet playing Mazeppa dominated the scene. I have read that in this production, according to the programme, this is one of two numbers in the show that uses the original Jerome Robbins choreography. Well the three of them certainly did the choreography justice (at least one of them being a testimony to her Arts Ed dance training). It was great to see Louise Gold, back on the stage in her singer-actress guise, after a couple of years of predominantly doing television (great though her television work is). She is a performer who seems to need to switch between different types of performance work., which given her considerable versatility is probably just as well. This afternoon, her long sensitive fingers hold a trumpet, sometimes high in the air, which as usual she does with a gracefulness, but also the firm straightness of a performer who is particularly accustomed to working with her arms above her head (as indeed she seems to have spent much of the last two years doing). I also notice a distinctive little way she holds her thumb and forefinger (of her clever left hand). She is a flexible performer, well used to getting into odd positions, this afternoon she makes blowing a rude trumpet (between her legs) seem effortless (and indeed it must have been a lot easier this time, than the occasion fifteen years ago when she attempted that little feat).  Gold is no stranger to this number. Fifteen years ago, in the Chelmsford revival of Side By Side By Sondheim she turned out an extraordinary performance of Mazeppa’s part in this number.  It is interesting to compare the two. Physically, she is clearly in a much better position to be singing and dancing a heavy number such as this than she was fifteen years ago (well the circumstances under which she was performing it were a bit exceptional). Her performance has also clearly been far more polished and perfected for this an in context performance of that number, not least because the trumpet playing is done with far more conviction, as she knows what she is doing with it this time. And then there is her singing. One of Louise Gold’s great gifts as a singer is her ability to sing the same song in two or three completely different  styles that are equally brilliant. She has done this on many occasions in the past, most notably with: Blow Gabriel Blow (her ‘Anything Goes’ version and the one she did with Jason Carr’s arrangement in Noel/Cole: Let’s Do It, the latter in this very theatre amongst other places),  The Boy From (she has done in two completely different accents), and then there are various songs she has done both normal singer-actress versions of and parody versions of (such as I Get A Kick Out of You, and Anything Goes).  And so it is with You Gotta Get A Gimmick. Fifteen years ago, when she sang it in Side By Side By Sondheim, she did it with her big Mermanesque belt voice.  Because I really adore it when she sings out in that great big vibrato belt voice of hers, of course I missed that, I did so love what she did vocally with the song then. However, I can also understand that would not have been an appropriate style for doing that song in the context of this production.  Were she to have done it that way this time, the balance of power between the performers in the company as a whole would have been out of balance, it could have pulled focus (because it would have shown up Staunton’s lack of vocal power). And while Gold may be a completely madcap Muppet (at least when it comes to creating a spectacle in stuffy staid glitzy galas) she is too good a company player to do something like that here. So vocally she does something completely different. Still strong and impressive, but not that glorious big voice. Instead she does it in a growl, with one of her fabled monster imitations.  Growling her way through the number using a voice that sounds rather like Big Mamma from The Muppet Show.  Amazingly this works, and seems to fit the character of Miss Mazeppa. Or at least it fits Miss Mazeppa as played by The English Muppet.  It’s a winning performance, as one might expect, Louise Gold has found her own unique place in this Chichester company.  For me at least, her performance in this number was the highlight of the entire show.  It is gloriously brilliant. But in a way I also felt a slight sadness at seeing her play a role like this, a bit like when I saw her as Miss Andrew in Mary Poppins on the Prince Edward Theatre stage , remembering that eleven years she starred on this Chichester stage in Jason Carr’s musical of The Waterbabies;  and that some twenty years ago she was playing Ethel Merman roles magnificently so magnificently in the Discovering Lost Musicals Charitable Trust shows.  Thank goodness that this multitalented performer also has her television work, currently starring on Cbeebies as the proprietoress of a Half Star Hotel. However small her part, or rather for however little time she is on the stage, Louise Gold makes the most of it, and makes an impact. And the three strippers did get good applause for their number.

There are only two more numbers left of the show. Moving on with the plot. Tessie gets arrested (off stage) and Rose-Louise ends up going on as a substitute stripper and thereby finding her forte, and taking the name Gypsy Rose Lee (the musical has her and her mother deciding on the name as being more suitable in that line of work, but in the original book, Gypsy explains that she took a stage name so that Mama Rose’s father wouldn’t find out what she was doing. She was going to call herself Rose Lee and then thought it sounded better with Gypsy in front of it. This transformation is illustrated by Pulver singing a knowing risqué reprise of Let Me Entertain You, in a variety of costumes, with a montage of photos of Gypsy Rose Lee on various billboards. An interesting point to include in  a musical, sometimes it really is completely by accident that some showbusiness performers discover something they turn out to be very good at, that they had no thought of doing until they were offered a job doing it.  Examples might include: pop singers who turn into chat show hosts, spinto sopranos turning into mezzos, actor or actresses or DJ’s being TV presenters, and we can’t forgot a certain actress in various touring musicals in the mid 1970s who turned out to have a talent for television puppetry, can we?

Long before this musical, Gypsy Rose Lee had been a big enough star to get her name mentioned in at least two musicals, both of which have strange connections to either her or this musical. In 1940, Rogers and Hart wrote a song called Zip for the musical Pal Joey, where it was sung by a reporter called Melba who does a strip tease while describing interviewing Gypsy Rose Lee. Ironically Gypsy Rose Lee’s sister June Havoc was also acting in that musical (a character called Gladys Bumps). Then in 1943, Cole Porter wrote a song called The Leader Of The Bigtime Band, which included a lyric a verse about Xviar Cugat and Gypsy Rose Lee.  That musical originally starred Ethel Merman who also got to sing that song.

We come to the final number of the show, and what a legendary number it is Rose’s Turn.  Staunton acts the number very very well, which is important, because the number really requires that. As with the other numbers, she sings it in the way that is right for her voice, which means the number is somewhat lacking shear vocal power, well when compared to say the way it was done in Sondheim Women at the St James Theatre. Once again Staunton employs some of those Julia McKenzie type tricks, i.e. doing selected bits louder. But it is important that Staunton sings it in the way that best suits her voice, and she does act it very well. And does not murder it by any means. Yes I preferred the version I saw in Sondheim Women, partly because I just do, (I am biased) and partly because it is more in keeping with the shear vocal power with which the song was originally intended to be sung), however Imelda Staunton did do a perfectly respectable and indeed satisfactory performance of this song. Very much like she has done through the whole show.

 

So overall did I enjoy Gypsy, Did I think it worth once again going down to Chichester. visiting Chichester was a little like old times, though I think I would have preferred an evening to a matinee, but sometimes travelling dictates that seeing  matinee is easier. Overall I enjoyed the show. Because I went to see it knowing that Imelda Staunton was unlikely to sing her numbers in the way I would think best suited them, I found I was pleasantly surprised by the fact that I quite enjoyed what she did do with them and was very impressed by her acting. Yes I would much rather hear those songs sung out over the footlights by the kind of voice that is still travelling when it reaches the back of the auditorium. But only if you had in the role a singer-actress who could do that properly, and there are very few of those. I had been afraid I would be reminded a great deal of Chichester’s production of Out Of This World (when Anne Reid as Juno had been completely overshadowed by Darlene Johnson and one actually felt maybe Johnson would have made a better Juno). Happily Staunton managed to make the role of Rose her own, for the duration of the show (yes there is someone else in the company who I think would be truly something if she ever got the chance to play Rose, lets  just say someone with a bigger voice….).  I was also hugely impressed by Lara Pulver’s performance as Rose Louise later Gypsy Rose Lee. She managed to convincingly go from awkward apparently untalented elder sister to star, and shared with Staunton the carrying of the show. Although Staunton to all intents and purposes is the star of the show (after all she is playing the Merman role) in some ways it was almost Pulver’s show as Juvenile lead. One of the other amazing leading performers in this show is of course Kevin Whately. Yes we’ve all seen him on television; but not singing and dancing in a musical, which he actually did rather well. There were also many bit parts in the company whose performances helped to make the show as a whole rather good, company members like: Jimmy Chisholm,  Harry Dickman, Gemma Sutton, Dan Burton, and Natalie Woods.  And then there are the stripper trio. Julie Legrand is the least remarkable of the three. She does a perfectly fine job in their number, its just that she has less dialogue and the least presence of the three. Nothing bad in her performance.  Then there is Anita Louise Coombe. I felt she came across more in her dialogue scene before the number than during the number, but the dialogue helped to established her part for the number.  The number kicks off on a high, with Louise Gold, who quite naturally, with her stage presence dominates it. At least in my humble opinion she does. As it’s the only number she is in one has to make the most of it, and in her performance, she gives of her best, as one would expect. And naturally I was paying more attention to her performance, than anything else, so no wonder I was less aware of the other two. It’s great to see Louise Gold once again on the Chichester Stage, even in a rather small but striking role. Striking her part is, and therefore her abilities as a singer-actress suit the role well. She’s good for the part, but is so small a part worthy of her? Let’s not forget that eleven years ago she starred on this stage in The Waterbabies, and also played the Battle-axe contralto role in The Gondoliers, while twenty years ago, in revue, also on this stage, she earned the comment from critic Clive Hirshon of “she makes Ethel Merman look subtle”.  In fact the only thing I felt was missing in her performance this afternoon was that vocal power she is so capable of (and did with that song in Side By Side By Sondheim). But the performance she did of Gimmick this afternoon was well suited to the production, and it was such fun to see her dressed up in mock roman garb, singing in Monster Growl.  She is an extraordinarily diverse comic performer, capable of making herself noticed in a show, and rises to the challenge of doing so in this one.  It’s just good to see her singing and dancing on the stage again, in a musical, showing us what an excellent singer actress she is, even if her current television work is somewhat more starry. I am glad to have come to Chichester and seen her once again on the Chichester stage. And indeed to have seen a production of Gypsy.  There is nothing like a good old classic musical.

 

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