There's yet another production of "Gypsy" in the works - this one being produced at New York's City Center under the auspices of Encores! and starring the great Patti Lupone as Rose, better known as Momma Rose in the musical. (Actually, the character is called Madame Rose throughout the show but, somehow, Momma Rose is the moniker that has stuck.)
I hasten to mention that "Gypsy" is my all-time favorite musical and I am very proprietary, possessive and, yes, opinionated about it. Also, I think that Lupone is the crown jewel of the modern musical theater. But I have a problem - and an opinion.
Why has the character of Rose traditionally been cast with an actress well into her 50s? I mean, the show spans only about 10 years or so, starting when Rose's two young daughters are 7 and 9 at best. Shouldn't the character be 30ish or maybe a little younger?
Imagine how revelatory - and different - it would be with a younger, youthful, vibrant performer in the role. But this has never happened.
I did a little research and here are the ages of the assorted actresses when they played Rose:
-Patti Lupone, age 58 (new 2007 Encores! production)
-Patti Lupone, age 57 (2006 Ravinia Festival production)
-Ethel Merman, age 57 (original 1959 Broadway production)
-Bernadette Peters, age 55 (2003 Sam Mendes revival)
-Rosalind Russell, age 55 (original 1962 film version)
-Linda Lavin, age 52 (succeeded Tyne Daly, below, in the 1989 revival)
-Betty Buckley, age 51 (1998 Papermill Playhouse production)
-Angela Lansbury, age 49 (1974 London production, followed by the first Broadway revival)
-Bette Midler, age 48 (1993 TV-movie remake)
-Betty Buckley, age 45 (1992 Southern Arizona Light Opera Company production)
-Tyne Daly, age 43 (1989 Broadway revival)
-Betty Hutton, age 40 (1961 National Tour)
Joanne Worley, Mary McCarty and Gisele MacKenzie have also played in productions of the show, Worley opposite Aundrey Landers as Louise/Gypsy. Somehow the role has evaded such powerhouses as Barbra Streisand, Carol Burnett and Liza Minnelli - and Stockard Channing, someone who I've always thought would be absolutely terrific in the part.
Anyway, given the contours of the show and its age requirement, who would you cast as Momma Rose/Madam Rose? Let me know. And be adventurous.
(Artwork: Poster art from the various productions of "Gypsy")
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