Broadway has enjoyed five productions of ‘Gypsy’ since 1959, all of which have provided a unique take on the show and characters. Much of the show rests on the central casting of Mama Rose, and each actress who takes on the challenge brings something very different to the show.
Original Broadway Production, 1959 – The Broadway Theatre
The original production opened on May 21, 1959 where it played 702 performances, closing on March 25, 1961 at the Imperial Theatre. It was produced by David Merrick and directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins.
Ethel Merman starred as Rose, alongside Jack Klugman as Herbie, Sandra Church as Louise.Scenic and lighting design was by Jo Mielziner, with costumes by Raoul Pene Du Bois. The iconic overture was orchestrated by Sid Ramin and Robert Ginzler.
The original production was well received and many have said in hindsight that it was one of the most influential stagings of the period. The show was nominated for 8 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical and Best Actress in a Musical but failed to take home any.
1974 Broadway Revival – Winter Garden Theatre
The first Broadway Revival of ‘Gypsy’ was a transfer of the West End production that had opened in 1973. After a 24 week American tour, the revival opened at the Winter Garden Theatre on September 23, 1974, closing on January 4, 1975 after 120 performances. Angela Lansbury starred as Rose, alongside Rex Robbins as Herbie,Maureen Moore as June and Mary Louise Wilson as Tessie Tura.
The production was produced alongside Edgar Lansbury and directed by the show’s bookwriter, Arthur Laurents, with choreography by Robert Tucker.
1989 Broadway Revival – St James Theatre
Arthur Laurents returned to direct the next Broadway Revival of Gypsy, which opened on November 16, 1989 at the St James Theatre before closing at the Marquis Theatre on July 28, 1991 after 476 performances. The production had a pre-Broadway engagement in Florida, Los Angeles and the Kennedy Center before opening in New York.
Tyne Daly starred as Rose, with Jonathan Hadary as Herbie and Crista Moore as Louise. The production won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Revival and Tyne Daly won the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical.
2003 Broadway Revival – Schubert Theatre
The 2003 revival broke the mould associated with the show, by inviting British director, Sam Mendes to take the lead. The role of rose was played by Broadway icon Bernadette Peters, and despite initial scepticism as to her casting, she received excellent notices, with many saying she had finally taken the role away from the Ethel Merman model. The rather bare production was disliked by Laurents who disagreed with much of Mendes’ staging, but it was nominated for four Tony Awards including Best Revival of a Musical and Best Actress in a Musical.
Peters was joined in the role by John Dossett as Herbie, Tammy Blanchard as Louise, Kate Reinders as June and David Burtka as Tulsa. The show opened on May 1, 2003 and closed on May 30, 2004 after 451 performances, recouping little over half of its original $8 million investment.
2008 Broadway Revival – St James Theatre
After this revival was originally produced at the New York City Center as part of the ‘Encores!’ series, there was much talk about it moving to Broadway. Directed once again by Arthur Laurents, who was keen to leave Broadway with a definitive version of the show, Patti LuPone took on the role of Mama Rose, alongside Boyd Gains as Herbie, Leigh Ann Larkin as June and Laura Benanti as Louise. It opened at the St James Theatre on March 27 2008 and received rave reviews from the New York Times.
The production went on to win the Tony Award and Drama Desk Awards for LuPone, Gaines and Benanti and continued to play until January 11, 2009.