Jonathan Kent’s dazzling revival of Julie Styne and Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy has gathered a galaxy of five star reviews, in particular for Imelda Stunton in the lead role of the legendary Momma Rose.
Transferring from Chichester Festival Theatre, the production has extended its run at London’s Savoy due to huge demand. It is considered by many to be America’s greatest musical, playing Broadway no less than five times, this is the first showing of the celebrated musical in London in over 40 years.
In what Matt Trueman in Variety calls, “a helluva performance… Staunton makes Momma Rose every bit the equal of Willy Loman, Arthur Miller’s doomed salesman, but where he hawks his wares door-to-door, she’s selling her family.”
Tom Eames in Digital Spy simply states “Staunton is ridiculously brilliant as Rose” and Michael Billington in The Guardian says it’s “one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen in musical theatre”.
Sondheim was so impressed with Imelda’s turn as Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd that he insisted she starred as Momma Rose in this revival, often called Broadway’s answer to King Lear, due to Momma Rose’s single minded devotion and delusional attempts to turn her two daughters into vaudeville stars.
When people first see the diminutive Imelda off stage, they are taken aback. One lady whispered to her friend at the stat door after a performance,”how can so much power come out of that tiny person?”
I was told that Imelda was only signing programmes, so out of respect for that I left my sketch with the stage door team with a return envelope. As usual, Imelda sent it back, graphed, a
five six star signer.