FAITHFUL TO ORIGINAL, BUT MIDLER MISSES THE MARK
DEWEY MEE | ELLENSBURG, WA, | 07/08/2007
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I LOVE the musical GYPSY. I knew that the creators of the original Broadway musical, Jule Styne, Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents were extremely disappointed with the earlier 1962 film version with Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood. Fair enough. So this TV adaptation is scene for scene, word for word exactly like the stage play script. That is excellent. The score is also one of the most outstanding in all of Broadway history. So, we get the original script and score; but unfortunately, that's all we get.
I watched this TV movie with great anticipation. My enthusiam deflated as soon as the less than divine Miss M started singing "Some People." I realized, with horror, that she was not portraying Mama Rose. Instead, she was portraying her idea of Ethel Merman portraying Mama Rose!! To make matters worse, her voice sounds extremely hoarse and coarse. Midler never makes the role her own. Surely, Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly, and even Rosalind
Russell did their own individual interpretations of Mama Rose. If Midler had only thought for a moment about Mama Rose, as the other actresses did, instead of Ethel Merman, she might have had a major triumph. I give Midler credit for giving her all to "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Rose's Turn", but the overalll production goes straight downhill because Midler simply doesn't "got the stuff." Curiously, Midler did this TV version just after Tyne Daly won a Tony Award for her performance in a Broadway revival. So, any TV version around that time period should have gone by rights to Daly. I wonder if somebody in Midler's camp pulled strings to make this a Midler Vanity production? I know Russell stole the original film from Merman because her husband was a powerful agent. Even I did not mind Russell over Merman. But Midler seriously misses the mark!
I know a thing or two about Mama Rose. I saw Judy Kaye play the role in a brief run in Seattle in 2001. Kaye just blew the roof off the theatre. Patti Lupone is doing a limited three week run in NYC as I write this. Now, that's a Mama I'd love to see. If you want a real powerhouse Mama Rose, skip Midler and go with the CD recordings made by Angela Lansbury (1973 London Cast) or Tyne Daly (1989 Broadway revival) instead."
Everything's Coming Up Crabgrass
David Cady | Jersey City, NJ USA | 07/15/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"It looked good on paper: Powerhouse performer Bette Midler playing the most famous role in musical theater, directed by Emile Ardolino, the guy who turned "Dirty Dancing" into a national phenomenon. So what went wrong? The truth is, Midler simply isn't a good enough actress to capture the subtleties of as complex a character as Momma Rose. She's all big eyes and broad gestures, waving arms and manic mood swings; it's a community theater performance, going for the obvious at every turn. Is Rose manic and driven at times? Yes, of course; her father calls her a "crazy woman" in an early scene. But from her first entrance, Midler seems to have confused "powerhouse" with "bulldozer." She spits her lines out in rapid succession, with all the bawdiness with which she tells her famous Sophie Tucker jokes in concert. But where's charm, humor, sexiness; all the manipulatively feminine characteristics that make Rose such a seductive, seditious presence in everyone's lives? Rose gets her way not because she beats Herbie, June and Louise into submission, but because her dreams and desires are so strong they have no choice but to believe in them themselves. Auntie Mame is described as The Pied Piper, but it's an apt description of Rose as well. Midler's characterization is so grating, I can't imagine anyone doing much more than running in the opposite direction.
Unfortunately, with the exception of Jennifer Rae Beck's Dainty June and Linda Hart's Mazeppa, the supporting cast is average at best. And however skilled Ardolino is at directing the musical sequences, he completely fails to mine the humor and tension of Arthur Laurents's brilliant dialogue. The production values are first rate across the boards. Personally, I think June's acts are a little over produced; a certain vaudeville seediness would have made more sense. But the producers and Ardolino obviously adore the material -- who doesn't? -- and they've approached it with tremendous love and attention, so it's hard to fault their decisions.
Is this a better version than the 1962 film? Yes and no. It's a far more faithful adaptation, with Laurents and Sondheim's bawdier material intact, but I think the earlier cast is far superior. I know I'm not supposed to like Rosiland Russell because she wasn't Ethel Merman, but I love the performance; for me, Russell finds the perfect balance between Rose's fierce passion and her crushing vulnerability. And Karl Malden and Natalie Wood are superb, the latter fragile and extremely touching. So as a record of the show as originally written, this version is a must for all musical theatre fans. But if you're looking for the definitive "Gypsy" on film -- it ain't been made yet."
Campy, artificial, no improvement on the 1962 film, but stil
Hans Christian Brando | Los Angeles | 07/15/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"About the best you can say for Bette Midler's performance is that she does her own singing. And even some of that is sloppy and careless. Her acting is one-note, and she kills her best comedy lines by alternately gasping or screeching them. (Say what you will about Roz Russell, she at least knew how to deliver lines.) We know that Madame Rose's kiddie troupe is getting a bit long in the tooth, but Jennifer Beck as "Dainty" June looks fully thirty years old. Cynthia Gibb is a lovely Louise/Gypsy, but Natalie Wood "aged" more credibly in the admittedly flawed by classier 1962 theatrical film adaptation. Peter Riegert is too mousy as Herbie, so much of the point of a strong man continually knuckling under to Rose's steamroller whim is lost. (When he does stand up to Rose, he seems more petulant than assertive.) Stars are wasted in bit parts, and Andrea Martin unwisely and unsuccessfully tries to be funny as Mrs. Cratchitt (who was played hilariously "straight" in the 1962 film by Jean Willes.)
The production itself looks cheesy and low budget, and the bright crayon colors don't help. Even the lamb was cuter in the earlier movie!
Still, it's an earnest attempt. And with great material like that, it's hard to go far wrong. As many others have pointed out, the adaptation is faithful to the original. But oh, why didn't somebody think to do a second film of GYPSY in the 70s while Merman was still around to do it?"
Venturi Air | 07/03/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I was recently in a production of "Gypsy" and have grown pretty attached to it. I thought this rendition was done quite well, but I prefer the Baby June from the original film and I prefer the strippers from the original film as well. I like Bette's performance the best out of the other Mama Rose actresses from film and/or Broadway.
My only complaint was a small glitch in the DVD that causes it to skip. Maybe a spin on the Disc Doctor will cure it."