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budget "Gypsy" dazzles (but take heed)

  • Jul 6, 2010
A British loophole classifying music recordings over 50 years old as "public domain" has unleashed a glut of cheap CD reissues of classic musical soundtracks and cast recordings. While these releases don't produce profit for the original artists or composer's estates, they do offer collectors the chance to expand their music libraries for literally pocket change. Such is the case with this reissue of the 1959 GYPSY original cast album.

"Sing out, Louise! Sing out!" As Ethel Merman thundered down the aisle, making her first entrance in GYPSY, little did audiences know that they were indeed witnessing Broadway history unfold before their very eyes. For while Merman was widely considered the First Lady of Broadway, her turn in GYPSY transformed her, quite simply, into a Broadway Legend.

Based on the memoirs of burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, the story follows Louise (Sandra Church), her younger sister June (Lane Bradbury) and their mother, Mama Rose (Ethel Merman), as Rose fights for the vaudeville fame that will put June on the showbiz map. "Talentless" Louise drifts along in the background, playing the front end of the cow in an act that almost sees June get signed with a top theatre producer--that is, until Mama decides to make some extra contractual points. When June, stifled by Mama's grip, finally walks away, Mama focuses her maniacal energies on Louise. A combination of the downfall of vaudeville, and an accidental booking at a Witchita burlesque theater, finally reveals Louise's true calling...

The ultimate backstage showbiz tale, GYPSY is now widely considered the pinnacle of the Broadway musical; but, incredible as it may seem, wasn't exactly a smash hit when it originally premiered! Running a polite 702 performances, GYPSY was overshadowed in the Tony Awards race by fellow 1959 season openers Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Sound of Music" and Bock and Harnick's Pulitzer Prize-winning "Fiorello!". Somehow, Merman lost out on the Tony for what many consider her crowning performance; and the subsequent touring company--also headed by Merman--only lasted eight months. Four Broadway revivals later, the show is now treated as the hallowed masterpiece that it deserves to be.

For a few dollars more, you can buy Sony Broadway's lovely (AND LEGAL) 50th Anniversary edition with crisp sound from the original master tapes and some great bonus tracks. Whichever version you happen to choose however, this is a must-own album for any musical fan's collection.

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October 26, 2010
I would LOVE to get my hands on this. My mom introduced me to the 1962 movie version of Gypsy and it was one of her all-time faves! I saw that you've been involved in theater since you were 12 (me too from 14), what's your all-time fave musical?
About the reviewer
Byron Kolln ()
Ranked #146
Byron has been actively involved in theatre since the age of 12. He has had a great variety of roles (both on-stage and off). In addition he has hosted the long-running "Show Business" programme … more
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About this album


Digitally remastered edition of this 1959 release starring Ethel Merman and Jack Klugman. Based on a book by Arthur Laurents with music written by Jule Styne and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, the show adapted the memoirs of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee focussing on her mother Rose. It affectionately recounts her efforts to raise her two daughters and get them a career on the stage. The musical was produced by David Merrick and directed by Jerome Robbins. Ethel Merman starred as Rose, Jack Klugman as Herbie and Sandra Church as Louise. This production received no less than eight Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, Best Actress in a Musical and Best Featured Actor in a Musical. Xtra.
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