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May 14, 2005


Danny, as a certified Sondheim fan (I've seen all of them except "Frogs") I loved today's blog re: "Gypsy." It is one of my favorite shows, not only for the music/lyrics, but for its complex mother-daughter relationship. As a mother often in the wings, never envied my daughters' (like Mama Rose) because I never had the crucial ingredient they both possess: audacity. Mama Rose had it, and Gypsy Rose Lee eventually got it. Sounds like you'll be a papa in the wings, too, alternating between kvelling and shuddering. Welcome!

If there is one musical I will probably never ever watch again, it's "Gypsy." Back in my days as an assoc. producer at 'Character Studies,' it's the episode that I was most directly involved with, so for months and months I lived, slept, ate, and breathed nothing but Gypsy Gypsy Gypsy. I can tell you all about Gypsy, and the various productions of it. I even got to go through all of Ethel Merman's scrapbooks from that time, and see all of the many dozens of opening night telegrams that she received when she opened that show. I even got to see some of the long-lost film footage left from the rehearsal of that show, and some actual photographs of Merman onstage during the first run. Cool stuff!

Luckily for our production, we had the cooperation of the very nice June Havoc (aka Baby June), who lent us some materials, as well as some of the supporting cast of the different productions. If you ever get the chance, the Museum of the City of New York has some amazing theatrical archives, and the director there -- Marty Jacobs, I think -- is a great guy.

Now, I will return from this brief Gypsy interlude to the land of never thinking about it ever again.

What a fun assignment, Retro! I will check out that museum next time I'm in New York. That is, if I don't put a gun to my head first trying to get those lyrics out of my skull. My daughter and I have been tormenting ourselves all weekend with neverending "Gypsy" medleys. Leah keeps singing songs that are inappropriate for a ten-year-old:
You can sacrifice your sacharo
Working in the back row
Bump in a dump till you're dead
Kid you gotta have a gimmick
If you wanna get ahead!

And I'm being driven nuts by:
Some people sit on their butts
Got the dream, yeah, but not the guts
That's living for some people
For some hum-drum people I suppose
Well, they can stay and ROT!
But not Rose!

Heeeeeelp! I think we need to join your anti-Gypsy 12-step group.

I'm surprised to hear about June Havoc's participation in your show. I thought she was dead set against the musical and estranged from her family. Didn't she even try to sue the producers of the Broadway show?

From what I recall, she was against the show (at least initially.) Our program was about the character of the mother specifically, which I think put a different slant on things -- and I think that she primarily helped us out with the real historical aspects, which (if I recall) was her gripe with the musical in the first place. Karen Moore, the actress that played one of the two young leads in the Merman version, was very very nice; I think we also interviewed Sondheim for the episode. Lots of good stuff!

Gypsy Rose Lee's son with Otto Preminger, on the other hand, did not cooperate. And that's all I have to say about that. ;)

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