Our age of reality TV and social media has made showbiz moms a rambunctious lot. Eager to achieve life of leisure on the backs of their children, they often go to outlandish extremes to see their offspring succeed.
But despite all of their antics and shenanigans, all of them pale in comparison to Momma Rose Hovick, the fame consumed matron who serves as the catalyst for The Muny’s magnificent revival of “Gypsy.”
Built on maternal conflict “Gypsy” centers on the feisty Momma Rose whose efforts to make her daughters big time stars cloaks her own ambitions of fame and fortune. Pugnacious in her pursuit of notoriety, Rose’s perpetual state of disenfranchisement is her own worst enemy.
Spanning the glory days and twilight of Vaudeville, Rose’s aggressive nurturing begins with her daughter June whom she grooms for stardom. Sadly any aspirations for her career as a great actress are quelled by her persistent bullying and pummeling.
Fed up with a grueling life on the road that yields no tangible results, June walks out, leaving Rose devastated and angry. Resilient and ruthless, her aspirations for fame reignite as she turns her attention to Louise, who has always been seen as less talented and less glamorous than her sibling.
Initially determined to stick by her mom through thick and thin, Louise rides out the storm by starring in a serious of less than stellar productions before throwing in the towel. With Vaudeville dead and buried her luck changes when their act is booked on a burlesque bill.
It is here when the legendary Gypsy Rose is born, catapulting the once timid and overlooked Louise to stardom. This of course does not sit well with her mother who cannot leave things well enough alone. Tired of a lifetime filled with her mom’s meddling and overbearing temperament, Louise changes all of the rules by becoming famous on her own terms.
Returning after a 12-year hibernation, The Muny’s production of “Gypsy” rests solidly on the shoulders of Beth Leavel who owns the show as Rose. From the onset she is a barnburner. Tenacious and rough, yet vulnerable her Rose is both despicable and likeable in one of The Muny’s best performances of the season.
Muny newcomer Adam Heller brings a sense of calm to the role of Herbie. Holding his own with a bombastic Leavel, Heller is terrific as Rose’s agent and steady hand his love and devotion are whittled away.
Julia Knitel executes the task of transforming Louise from second fiddle to starlet with perfection. Brassy, intelligent and sassy her performance is the perfect contrast for Leavel’s exuberant Rose.
This dazzling productionfreshens up the crown jewel of American musicals with an all-consuming effort filled with many of Broadway’s most beloved songs and an amazing ensemble cast. Indeed everything is coming up roses.
At The Muny through Aug. 2. For more information, call 314-361-1900 or visit muny.org.