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Pioneer Entertainment presents
"I had a dream/I dreamed it for you, June/ it wasn't for me, Herbie/ and if it wasn't for me, then where would you be/Miss Gypsy Rose Lee?"
DVD ReviewBette Midler leads a fine-tuned cast in this made-for-tv production of Gypsy. She is the quintessential Madame Rose, who was the quintessential stage mother—bold, relentless, impossibly driven, all for the sake of "her girls".... OY VEY. If you think you have a pushy mother, take heart: Mama Rose will send you crawling back to her, begging for attention.
Based on the autobiographical works of Gypsy Rose Lee, we witness the Hovicks of Seattle struggle to make it in show business in the early part of the last century when vaudeville was "the big time". Rose Hovick, after several failed marriages, dreams of a larger life for her 2 daughters, whether they want it or not. She focuses on June, the blonde, talented one; her second daughter, Louise, is mousy and awkward, seemingly content to keep back in her sister's shadow. Rose schleps them from town to town, building the act as she moves toward her dream of making June a star.
"...light the lights...."
They meet up with Herbie Sommers, who reluctantly returns to his former career as an agent when he falls for the indomitable Rose. He remains steadfast and true while the girls grow to young womanhood. But June finally rebels against her mother's egomaniacal control and elopes. Now, Rose thrusts Louise into the spotlight and the act goes on. (Well, actually, this is the end of Act I...finally.)
"You've got nothing to hit...."
But vaudeville is dying out, and the act hits the skids at a burlesque theater. When a slot in the revue opens up, Rose sends her daughter onto the stage and the meek Louise transforms into the demure Miss Gypsy Rose Lee...and the legendary stripper whose name is synonymous with burlesque, is born: "Some men have called me an ec-dy-si-ast. Do you know what that means? An ecdysiast is one who, or that which, sheds it's skin. In vulgar parlance, a stripper. But I'm not a stripper—at these prices, I'm an ecdysiast!"
"...but the heights."
1993's Gypsy is a tour-de-force for the Divine Miss M. I read everywhere that this is "the role she was born to play," but I think this possibly degrades everything else she's done. I WILL say that Rose's Turn is the song she was born to perform, and she seems to save everything for this stunning, cumulative number. Truthfully, there is precious little dialogue and that suits me just fine. The songs are almost all wonderfully memorable: Let Me Entertain You, You Gotta Get a Gimmick—includes the unforgettable rhyme, "If you wanna bump it/ Bump it with a trumpet...."—Together, Wherever We Go and the reigning queen of showtunes, Everything's Coming Up Roses. And this is a cast worthy of them: Peter Riegert is an endearing surprise, rendering Herbie believably sensitive in his devotion. Cynthia Gibb is, well, "ve-ry ver-sa-tile" as she takes her role from a child of 10 to the delicate 15-year-old who peeled off a glove, dropped a shoulder strap and drove ...em wild.
In this faithful adaptation, the Styne-Sondheim score has never been better, Robbins choreography thrives and for me, comparisons with the 1962 movie (Rosalind Russell, Karl Malden, Natalie Wood) or any of the thousands of staged versions is moot—Midler takes us all the way and there's no looking back. "How'd ya like them eggrolls, Mr. Goldstone?"
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: Pioneer gives us Gypsy in original 1.33:1 television aspect ratio. A faithful transfer, with balanced, well-saturated colors from beginning to end. Likely provided with an excellent source, the is little to no aliasing or grain with no noted softness. A shame it was not originally filmed in widescreen, I'm sure the big stage production numbers would have been much more appealing.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: This musical extravaganza is presented in DD5.1 but I swear it plays in surround. The bonus version of the classic overture is particularly fine . The levels are well-balanced between dialogue and song and there are a few places where you can actually hear Midler gather breath for her next note, providing that exhilarating "live theater" experience.
Audio Transfer Grade: C+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 30 cues and remote access
Music/Song Access with 17 cues and remote access
I will, however, extend my gratitude for including the entire overture, complete with age-worn footage of various vaudeville and burlesque acts that literally set the stage, including vintage Gypsy Rose Lee herself. At least the production itself is intact.
Extras Grade: D
Final Comments"Ready or not/Here comes Mama!"We've always known Bette's "got the stuff", and it was worth waiting 25 years for her to "show it to us". A must have for Midler fans, Gypsy fans, and anyone who loves the musical stage.
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