Yeessss! After a 42 year hiatus since it last appeared in the West End in 1973, Gypsy the musical is back!
Initially a Broadway musical in 1959, before being made into the 1962 film starring Natalie Wood, Gypsy tells the story of the woman who can only be described as the world’s first celebrity burlesque performer and legend, Gypsy Rose Lee.
Well actually, it tells more of the story of Gypsy’s Mother, Madam Rose, based on Gypsy’s own 1957 memoir. Though based primarily on the early career of Gypsy and her sister June blazing the Vaudeville trail, and featuring very little of Gypsy’s striptease career, it is none the less a must-see for any Gypsy fan.
Broadway star, singer, TV show host, author – you name it, Gypsy did it; but it is her one of a kind striptease style that the burlesque community and world remember her for. Whether you’re into comedy burlesque, have the name Rose in your stage name, or sing during your act – there’s not a performer anywhere who hasn’t been influenced by Gypsy in one way or another.
When I launched Burlesque Bakery, Gypsy was one of the first performers I turned to for inspiration, creating a special edition collection based on a stunning program I got from Gypsy’s son, Erik Lee Preminger.
Ahead of the show opening this month, I interviewed Erik about his take on the musical, and here’s what he had to say.
BB: Based on your mother’s memoirs, Gypsy mainly focuses on your mother’s childhood and early career. Do you think if she were around today and she could have foreseen the resurrection of burlesque, she would have focused more on that?
ELP: She actually writes a great deal about burlesque in her book; it’s just that Arthur Laurents saw the musical ending when Gypsy first became a star, and in retrospect he was certainly right. I know that my mother planned to write another memoir but sadly died before she got around to it.
BB: You wrote your own book about growing up with Gypsy – do you ever see it becoming a musical, and who would you cast?
ELP: I don’t see my book as a musical. Magic rarely strikes twice.
BB: When Gypsy was created it caused a lot of family tension among your mother and your aunt June – how do all of your family feel about the musical today?
ELP: My son and I are the only direct relatives of my mother left (she had a half brother who’s still alive but I am not in touch with him) and we, of course, are delighted with the musical. After all, it keep my mother’s legend alive.
BB: Your mother famously waited until after your grandmother’s passing to create Gypsy as she knew she would oppose it. Ironically, the role of Madam Rose is regarded as one of the most revered musical roles throughout history and has immortalised her. How do you think she would feel about it if she were alive to see it?
ELP: I don’t know. Rose was so contrary and so greedy, she probably would have killed the show before it even opened.
BB: Gypsy clearly knew the massive potential for her memoirs when she told you it was risky to turn down a lucrative movie deal in favour of selling theatrical rights, but that long term it would pay off. Do you think she ever imagined just how massive the musical would become?
ELP: Who could have predicted such a thing? Gypsy is a blend of great talents stirred by theatrical magic.
And who can deny that? Thank you Erik for that wonderful insight. To discover more about Gypsy, check out Erik’s website. Gypsy stars Imelda Staunton and will be on at the Savoy Theatre from 28th March – 18th July.
Suffice it to say I’ve snapped up my ticket already, and in celebration the next Burly Baker Show on Witney Radio will be a special dedicated to all things Gypsy!
Make sure you join me on Tuesday 17th March, 7 – 8pm.
The Burly Baker x