This Stephen Sondheim/Jules Styne/Arthur Laurents musical comedy Gypsy had been a Broadway smash with Ethel Merman in the lead. Based on the autobiography of striptease artist Gypsy Rose Lee, it centers on the antics of Mama Rose (here played by Rosalind Russell), the Stage Mother from Hell who prods and pushes her daughters June and Louise into a vaudeville career. Rose pins most of her hopes for fame on older daughter June (billed as "Dainty June"), while little Louise reluctantly goes along for the ride. Karl Malden plays the girls' agent, who falls in love with Rose but is ultimately turned off by her ruthless ambition. When June escapes the act to get married, Rose puts the unwilling Louise in the star spot, but vaudeville is dying and soon the only booking they can get is in a cheap burlesque house. The strippers take Louise under their wing and advise her that "You've gotta have a gimmick" to survive on the bump-and-grind circuit. The nervous Louise rises to stardom as stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, whose "gimmick" is to adopt a self-mocking attitude and to put on pseudo-sophisticated airs. Rose resents Gypsy's rise to the top, but a bravura eight-minute musical soliloquy reveals that Rose had forced her daughters on the stage because she wanted to live out her own dreams of stardom. Louise--aka Gypsy--is played by Diane Pace as a girl and by Natalie Wood as an adult; June (better known as June Havoc) is portrayal by Suzanne Cupito (later billed as Morgan Brittany) as a little girl and Ann Jillian as an adolescent. Most of the best songs, including "Let Me Entertain You," "Small World," and "Everything's Coming Up Roses," remain intact from the original Broadway production. Gypsy was remade for television in 1993, with Bette Midler as Rose.
by Hal Erickson synopsis