March 08, 2008

Gypsy - Patti Lupone

Previews for Gypsy starring Patti Lupone started this week at the St. James Theater. I've been working it all week. I missed the Monday night performance starting my week on Tuesday night.

I am so excited to finally see a production of Gypsy. I have wanted to see it on stage since I saw the movie 20 or so years ago that stars Rosaline Russell and Natalie Wood. I have a recording by the original Broadway cast which includes Ethel Merman. It's one of the best musicals of all time.

I missed the Tyne Daly production long, long ago in the 90's. I missed the Bernadette Peters production back in 2003. Finally, I get to see the show and it's starring the amazing Patti Lupone. She's truly amazing. And not just because she's a great singer.

Wednesday night something out of the ordinary happened at the opening of Act II. Act II opens with Rose, Louise and a troop of girls camped out in the dessert. They're rehearsing the new act for Louise. Just as the curtain opened a lightbulb fell center stage. That wasn't supposed to happen. Patti Lupone didn't miss a beat. She continued with the scene. As she was saying her lines, she went back stage and got a broom and started sweeping debris off the stage from side to side. Laura Benanti as Louise practiced her baton twirling and the girls backed her up. All the while Patti Lupone was cleaning up and performing. When she was done sweeping with one broom, she went back stage and got another to push the debris off stage because the first broom didn't work so well. It was seamless. The way she did it, you'd think it was written in the script that a lightbulb should fall from the sky.

Last night something else extraordinary happened. And this will tell you how amazing is Laura Benanti as Gypsy Rose Lee. There's a moment in the show that's referred to as "THE MOMENT". It's when Louise, getting ready to perform her first strip tease is standing back stage in a gown, looking in the mirror. It's when she discovers her own beauty and she says, "I'm pretty. I'm a pretty girl, Mamma." Just as she said it last night, a curtain mistakenly came down practically on top of her. The curtain covered half of the mirror. Laura Benanti pulled the curtain aside and pushed her head through to say her line. When the curtain came up again, the back drop for a future scene had mistakenly and mysteriously moved into place.

There was no recovering from that. Laura Benanti finally had to say "stop the show". And they did. An announcement was made informing the audience of technical difficulties. The audience applauded. And they sat there in the dark whispering to each other for 10 minutes. Nobody got up, well a couple of people did but mostly people remained in their seats. After 10 minutes. the curtain came up again and they'd reset everything so Gypsy could have her "moment". The show continued. And we all got out late, after 11 pm.

Gypsy is a long show. Add technical difficulties and forget about it. I didn't get home until after midnight last night. My last headset was finally returned when the theater was almost empty of patrons. Then I had to wait half an hour for an N train. Ugh.

Anyhoo. You should go see Gypsy. It's great. I don't know if anyone will ever be as great as Ethel Merman. But Patti Lupone comes darn close.

And she's amazing.


Tony said...

I just looked it up on IBDB, and by my math, Patti Lupone has been involved in 4,046 separate performances on Broadway in the last 30+ years. I'd be willing to bet this has happened before.

Jeff said...

I was there Friday night too when the curtain accidentally came down! (I blogged about it today.) Laura Benanti's truly a pro - I was relieved that they managed to pick up the show from that pivotal moment and continue on to the end.

What an amazing production this is. I love it.