Book by Arthur Laurents

Lyrics by Stephen Sondheim

Music by Jule Styne

Directed and Choreographed by Jerome Robbins

Uncle Jocko Mort Marshall
George Willy Sumner
Arnold Johnny Borden
Balloon Girl Jody Lane
Baby Louise Karen Moore
Baby June Jacqueline Mayro
Rose Ethel Merman
Pop Erv Harman
Newsboys Bobby Brownell, Gene Castle, Steve Curry, Billy Harris
Weber Joe Silver
Herbie Jack Klugman
Louise Sandra Church
June Lane Bradbury
Tulsa Paul Wallace
Yonkers David Winters
L.A. Michael Parks
Angie Ian Tucker
Kringelein Loney Lewis
Mr. Goldstone Mort Marshall
Miss Cratchitt Peg Murray
Farmboys Marvin Arnold, Ricky Coll, Don Emmons, Michael Parks,
Ian Tucker, Paul Wallace, David Winters  
    Hollywood Blondes:
   Agnes Marilyn Cooper
   Marjorie May Patsy Bruder
   Delores Marilyn D'Honau
   Thelma Merle Letowt
   Edna Joan Petlak
   Gail Linda Donovan
Cow Willy Sumner and George Zima
Pastey Richard Porter
Tessie Tura Maria Karnilova
Mazeppa Faith Dane
Cigar Loney Lewis
Electra Chotzi Foley
Showgirls Kathryn Albertson, Denise McLaglen, Barbara London,
Theda Nelson, Carroll Joe Towers, Marie Wallace
Renee Marsha Rivers
Phil Joe Silver
Bougeron-Cochon George Zima

GYPSY was first presented by David Merrick and Leland Hayward at the Broadway Theatre on May 21, 1959.  It closed March 25, 1961 after 702 performances.  When the show closed on Broadway, the original cast toured the U.S. with stops in Rochester, Detroit, Cleveland, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and St. Louis.  The libretto by Arthur Laurents was "suggested by" the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee.  In his effort to whittle down the material for a play, however, Laurents focused on Gypsy's mother, Rose, who is presented as the ultimate stage mother.  Her phrase "Sing out, Louise!" became synonymous with well-meaning but interfering show biz moms.  In an interview published in BROADWAY SONG AND STORY edited by Otis L. Guernsey, Jr. (Dodd, Mead & Company 1985), Sondheim revealed that the book and lyrics were written in about four and a half months.  There was no trouble in the writing whatsoever, working from Laurents' outline.

The original cast album was recorded May 24, 1959 by producer Goddard Lieberson.  Dance music for the show was arranged by John Kander who went on to a major Broadway career composing shows such as CABARET and CHICAGO.   GYPSY was nominated for a Tony for Best Musical Play but lost to FIORELLO.  Ethel Merman was nominated for Best Female Musical Performer but lost to Mary Martin in THE SOUND OF MUSIC.  Jack Klugman was nominated for Best Male Featured Musical Performer but lost to Tom Bosley in FIORELLO.  Sandra Church was nominated for Best Female Featured Musical Performer but lost to Patricia Neway in THE SOUND OF MUSIC.  Jerome Robbins was nominated for Best Director of a Musical but lost to George Abbott for FIORELLO.   Milton Rosenstock was nominated for Musical Direction/Conducting but lost to Frederick Dvonch from THE SOUND OF MUSIC.  Jo Mielziner was nominated for Best Scenic Design but lost to Oliver Smith for THE SOUND OF MUSIC.  Raoul Pene Du Bois was nominated for Best Costumes but lost to Cecil Beaton for SARATOGA.

Marie Wallace, by the way, was only 16 years old when she got the chorus role as a Showgirl; she eventually went on to play Eve (and several other roles) in the vampire soap opera DARK SHADOWS.  In her autobiography ON STAGE AND IN SHADOWS (iUniverse 2005), she writes that she and the other girls playing the showgirls had lots of time backstage since they didn't appear on stage until Act II.  Faith Dane (Mazeppa) began to paint with oils, inspiring the 13 other girls who shared the dressing room to begin painting.  They produced over 100 paintings during the long run, some of which were exhibited at Junior's Backyard (the restaurant/bar next to the entrance to the theatre on 53rd Street).  Ethel Merman bought two of Marie's paintings and presented these to her parents.  The proceeds went to the Actors' Fund organization.

Craig Zadan reports in SONDHEIM & CO. that Jerome Robbins wanted Sondheim to do the score for GYPSY, based on songs Sondheim had composed for A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM, but Ethel Merman wouldn't take a chance on an unknown composer, although she was happy to have him do the lyrics; she wanted Jule Styne to do the music.  Sondheim, anxious to get on with his composing career, turned the job down, but when pressed by Arthur Laurents, sought the advice of his mentor Oscar Hammerstein, who convinced him to do it for the experience of writing for a star.  Quotes in this webpage are from Zadan's book.

Sondheim on Jule Styne:  "His melodic fertility is incredible, but . . . he's the least economical composer I know.  He'd play you something and you'd say that it's not exactly right . . . and he'd say, 'I'll write something else!' And he'd write a whole new piece." 

Sondheim on lyrics:  "In WEST SIDE, the lyrics had a poetic aspect and therefore there was a tendency to become pretentious.  The lyrics for GYPSY are in the vernacular and the tendency is to become satirical. That was the big problem.  The lyrics must be nostalgic--genuine and real--and this is a very thin line to tread.  In GYPSY, all the climaxes of emotion and action erupt into music because they can't go further without it."

Laurents on the development of the libretto:  "Actually, GYPSY is a show about three people . . .  I knew what I wanted to do and the only person I collaborated with with Steve.  He collaborated in his own way with Jule."

Laurents: "You have to know that the music is the most important thing and everything has to be built toward it.  Again, there's that elusive thing that a musical is larger than life.  Steve once told me that he thought GYPSY could be a play and I absolutely did not agree.  Never.  Not the way I wrote it.  It's too big.  The characters are overblown, the strokes are too bold and too broad.  It's the presence of music that supports it . . . Music allows you that style.  The absence of music doesn't.  A musical needs construction . . . Probably more than a play because you must construct things to build to a song.  Every line must make its point or you don't have it.  A musical calls for the most economical writing there is in the theatre."

Merman:  "I've always wanted to be a dramatic actress but I never had a chance.  I always knew I could act and I would love to do a straight play, but I wonder if the public would accept me as a dramatic actress.  I only know that I've never been presented to better advantage than in GYPSY.  This is the peak of my career."

Styne on writing for Merman (from JULE, THE STORY OF COMPOSER JULE STYNE by Theodore Taylor):  "Before I wrote anything for Merman, I bought every album she'd ever made and played them again and again.  Gee, I must have played them for a week."  According to Martin Gottfried's liner notes for the remastered CD of GYPSY (1986), Styne's theory of writing for Merman was "Give her a big note to start with, and a big note to finish."   The entire score was written in about five weeks.  Sondheim claims the lyrics were written in 4 months in FINISHING THE HAT: COLLECTED LYRICS (1954-1981) WITH ATTENDANT COMMENTS, PRINCIPLES, HERESIES, GRUDGES, WHINES AND ANECDOTES (Knopf 2010). Years later the composers and lyricists of ASCAP voted this score as the best ever written for a Broadway musical.

Many people, me among them, think GYPSY is the best Broadway musical ever.  It had an interesting backstage plot about the early life of Gypsy Rose Lee; the plot spanned the death of vaudeville and the start of burlesque; it had a wonderful libretto by Arthur Laurents which probably could have stood by itself (although he disagrees), but then it had the icing on the cake, a magnificent score by Jule Styne and wonderful lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.  It also starred one of my favorite Broadway musical actresses, Ethel Merman.   

It has always seemed to me that I missed out on seeing for myself the best Broadway shows.  GYPSY opened in 1959 and closed in 1961, and I didn't start seeing Broadway shows until 1965.  But I had the original cast LP and played and sang along with it over and over.  It's amazing how vivid the numbers in this show were (and are) to me, even though I never saw the original staging.  I subsequently saw three revivals of GYPSY, all of which I thought were inferior to the Ethel Merman original (even though I never saw it!), although Angela Lansbury won a Tony for her portrayal of Mama Rose.  At the time the film came out, I didn't like it, because I wanted to see Ethel, not Rosalind Russell in the lead; however, I've seen the film within the last year or so, and I now think Russell did a good job and the film pretty much captured and was faithful to a lot of the staging of the play.

GYPSY was made into a film in 1962 with Rosalind Russell in the lead.  Only Paul Wallace (Tulsa) and Faith Dane (Mazeppa) from the original cast appear in the film.

The show was produced in London under Arthur Laurents' direction with Angela Lansbury in the lead, premiering May 29, 1973 at the Piccadilly Theatre and running for 300 performances.   Merman had been asked to recreate her role, and declined.  Lansbury originally declined as well, and Elaine Stritch--who had recently scored a success recreating her role in COMPANY in London--agreed to star, but the producers were unable to raise the required capital until Lansbury changed her mind.  

Laurents:  "The reason I was interested in directing the show was because we had a different star . . . with a new star, you could play the show for different values . . .  Directing the show was the happiest experience I've ever had in the theatre."

For this version, Sondheim added two new choruses of TOGETHER, WHEREVER WE GO, and Louise gets to talk during the strip.  Laurents:  "I always felt the girl should talk, but Jerry was never willing to try it.  In London, I wrote lines for her and through her talk you can see her evolve as a woman.  Now, also the line of the piece is different.  The entire show builds to ROSE'S TURN.  Originally, the whole thing built to EVERYTHING'S COMING UP ROSES, and everybody thought the second act wasn't as good as the first.  Now, the second act tops the first.  It's in the relationships.  The show is a genuine love story between Rose and Herbie.  You believe she loves him, and when he walks out, she's lost something.  You believe she's a mother and you believe she loves those kids."

This London production was subsequently imported to Broadway, opening September 23, 1974 at the Winter Garden Theatre, which is where I first got to see GYPSY.  It closed on January 4, 1975 after 120 performances.   I saw a Tuesday evening performance on October 8, 1974 where a first row orchestra seat cost $15.00.  The cast included:

Baby Louise Lisa Peluso
Baby June Bonnie Langford
Rose Angela Lansbury
Herbie Rex Robbins
Louise Zan Charisse

Bonnie Langford also played Baby June in London and South Africa.  Among the Hollywood Blondes were Patricia Richardson (HOME IMPROVEMENT) and Denny Dillon (SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE).

GYPSY was revived again on Broadway with Tyne Daly, opening November 16, 1989 at the St. James Theatre.  During that run, Linda Lavin took over as Rose, and I saw the show again.  This production ran until January 6, 1991, a total of 477 performances.  I saw a Tuesday evening performance on August 14, 1990 where a first row orchestra seat cost $55.00.  The cast included:

Baby Louise Kristen Mahon
Baby June Christen Tassin
Rose Linda Lavin
Herbie Jonathan Hadary
Louise Christa Moore
June Tracy Venner

There was also a TV version which appeared on CBS in December, 1993 with Bette Midler in the lead.

Writing in ANYTHING GOES (Oxford University Press 2013), Ethan Mordden says:  "GYPSY has long held pride of place even on the short list of perfect shows, because ... the character relationships are so sternly yet so richly drawn. ... But it's really an intimate drama about three people. ... Ironically, while the very title of GYPSY has become as much a summoning term as OKLAHOMA or MY FAIR LADY, that is, so embedded in the musical's history that it stands beyond criticism, GYPSY is more a thrilling noise than a description, because the show isn't about Gypsy--or Louise ... It's about her mother. ... GYPSY especially typif[ies] the new kind of star show, still composed around the central performer yet worthy art in its own right, almost as if the star had been cast coincidentally."


Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

This is, without doubt, my favorite overture of all time.  Styne: "Do you know how I had to fight for that overture?  Jerry didn't like it.  All I know is that when the trumpet player started playing that strip music, the audience went crazy.  We were a hit even before the curtain went up."

The play encompasses a period from the early 1920s to the early 1930s.  On either side of the stage are cards which display the location where each scene takes place.  First up is the Uncle Jocko Kiddie Show in Seattle.  Jocko is auditioning tots and has ordered all the stage mothers to clear the theatre.  June and Louise, two young amateurs, sing this song:

Let Me Entertain You

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.
June: Let me entertain you,
Let me see you smile.
I will do some kicks--
Louise: I will do some tricks.
Rose: Sing out, Louise--sing out!
June: I'll tell you a story.
Louise: I'll dance when she's done.
Rose: You're behind, honey!  Catch up, catch up!
June and Louise: By the time we're through
Entertaining you--
You'll have a barrel of fun!

Some People

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Sondheim on Arthur Laurents:  "The major thing I got from Arthur was the notion of 'subtext'.  What that means, simply, is something to give the actors to act.  Lyrics, as well as scenes, without subtext, tend to be shallow or surface."  The subtext of this song is that Rose needs 88 bucks and if her father won't give it to her willingly, she'll steal his gold plaque and hock it for the money.

Sondheim:  "Ethel worked very hard, and she told us that we could put anything into the show up until one week before the opening. Thereafter, she would not change a single word, gesture, move or anything.  Two weeks before the opening I thought that SOME PEOPLE needed a verse because the dialogue that precedes the song is on a high pitch and the song starts low.  It needed the verse to bring it down.  The cue-in is clumsy and it would have helped the song a lot.  After it was written, however, she said she felt it was too angry and she refused to learn it."

Writing in ANYTHING GOES (Oxford University Press 2013), Ethan Mordden says "Some people sit on their buts, got the dream, yeah, but not the guts" is "perhaps the greatest single character lyric ever heard."

Dissatisfied with the small time show business available in Seattle, Rose plots to break into the big time.  She has had a dream about a new act for her children and tries to hit up her unsympathetic father for the money she needs to fund it:

Some people can get a thrill
Knitting sweaters and sitting still--
That's OK for some people who don't know they're alive.
Some people can thrive and bloom
Living life in a living room--
That's perfect for some people of one hundred and five!
But I
At least gotta try,
When I think of all the sights that I gotta see yet,
And all the places I gotta play,
All the things that I gotta be yet--
Come on, Poppa, whaddaya say?

Some people can be content
Playin' bingo and payin' rent--
That's peachy for some people,
For some humdrum people
To be,
But some people ain't me!

I had a dream,
A wonderful dream, Poppa,
All about June and the Orpheum Circuit--
Give me a chance and I know I can work it!
I had a dream,
Just as real as can be, Poppa--
There I was in Mr. Orpheum's office
And he was sayin' to me,
Get yourself some new orchestrations,
New routines and red velvet curtains,
Get a feathered hat for the Baby,
Photographs in front of the theatre,
Get an agent--and in jig time,
You'll be being booked in the big time!"
Oh, what a dream,
A wonderful dream, Poppa,
And all that I need
Is eighty-eight bucks, Poppa!
That's what he said, Poppa,
Only eighty-eight bucks, Poppa...

(Pop:  You ain't gettin' eighty-eight cents from me, Rose!)

Then I'll get it someplace else--but I'll get it and get my kids out!

To blueberry pie!
Good riddance to all the socials I had to go to,
All the lodges I had to play,
All the Shriners I said hello to--
Hey, L.A., I'm comin' your way!
Some people sit on their butts,
Got the dream--yeah, but not the guts!
That's livin' for some people,
For some humdrum people,
I suppose.
Well, they can stay and rot--
But not

During the last part of this song, Rose takes from the wall her father's retirement plaque made of gold and sets off to hock it to fund her dream.  Sondheim provided the voice of Rose's father on the original cast album.

Small World

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

June and Louise manage to hitch a ride (Rose emerges after the car has stopped to pick them up) and the three head for L.A.  En route Rose "kidnaps" the driver's son and two other little boys to serve as chorus boys for the new act Rose has in mind.  In L.A., the girls are about to rejected during an audition when Herbie puts in a good word with the theatre manager.  Herbie used to be an agent but now sells candy to theatre owners.  He has taken a shine to Rose and has checked with her kids to see if she is married.  Rose is attracted to him as well but sees him more as an entree into show business for her kids.  She sings to Herbie:

Funny, you're a stranger who's come here,
Come from another town.
Funny, I'm a stranger myself here--
Small world, isn't it?
Funny, you're a man who goes travelin'
Rather than settlin' down.
Funny, 'cause I'd love to go travelin'--
Small world, isn't it?

We have so much in common,
It's a phenomenon.
We could pool our resources
By joining forces
From now on.
Lucky, you're a man who likes children--
That's an important sign.
Lucky, I'm a woman with children--
Small world, isn't it?
Funny, isn't it?
Small, and funny, and fine.

Sondheim:  "Jule was appalled when in SMALL WORLD I wrote a line that said, 'Funny, I'm a woman with children.'  Jule protested, 'Well, that means no man can sing the song!'  And I told him that if I make the song general, then it's got no texture for the show at all."  (In fact, Johnny Mathis had a huge hit with SMALL WORLD.)  

This was the number used to audition Jack Klugman for the role of Herbie; he was not a singer and struggled with the number.  Klugman:  "I was very self-conscious until one day somebody told me that Steve was going to parties singing YOU'LL NEVER GET AWAY FROM ME and when he'd get to 'Ah, Rose,' he'd stop and say that he couldn't do it as well as Klugman could . . . that when Klugman does it, it's so real and has so much feeling."  Klugman even offered to quit the show, feeling that Sondheim would be able to write a better lyrics for someone with a big singing voice, but Sondheim told him, "No.  What you're doing is right.  I don't want a musical voice.  I want a person I can believe."

Sondheim on a song called MAMMA'S TALKING SOFT sung by the kids in counterpoint to SMALL WORLD :  "The number was cut because one of the little girls was afraid of the height of the scenery and cried every time she got up there, and there was no other way to stage it."  The two sisters were atop a flat and spying on their mother who was in the process of flirting with Herbie and conning him into handling her act.  But Karen Moore, who played Louise,  was frightened to be 12-15 feet in the air and so the song was cut, because no other way of staging it could be devised.

Mama's talkin' soft.
Mama's got a plan.
Mama's eyes are wide.
Mama sees a man.

Mama's blushin' pink.
Strokin' back her hair.
Mama has a smile,
And when she has a smile,
No one else has a pray'r.

Mama's talkin' low,
Mama's gonna win,
Mama's movin' slow,
Mama's movin' in.

Bet when Mama's done
Not a soul survives,
Mama's talkin' soft;
Everybody, run for your lives!

Baby June and Her Newsboys

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

The new act features Louise (as a boy) and the three boys Rose "kidnapped" as newsboys and showcases June.
Newsboys: Extra!  Extra!  Hey, look at the headline!
Historical news is being made!
Extra!  Extra!  They're drawing a red line
Around the biggest scoop of the decade!
A barrel of charm, a fabulous thrill!
The biggest little headline in vaud-e-ville:

Presenting--in person--that three-foot-three bundle of dynamite:  Baby June!

June: Hello, everybody!  My name is June.  What's yours?

Let me entertain you,
Let me make you smile.
Let me do a few tricks,
Some old and then some new tricks--
I'm very versatile.
And if you're real good,
I'll make you feel good--
I want your spirits to climb.
Just let me entertain you
And we'll have a real good time--yessir!
We'll have a real good time!

There follows a patriotic salute to Uncle Sam; during this number, the lights flicker so that the dance step the children do appears faster and faster.  I believe the device used is called a lobsterscope and it causes images to strobe so that it looks like a speeded up film with frames missing.  It's quite an impressive effect and while it is in progress the young actors are replaced by their older counterparts in identical costumes.  The placard at the side of the stage has been changed from Baby June and her Newsboys to Dainty June and her Newsboys.

Have an Egg Roll Mr. Goldstone

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.  The troupe is staying in two rooms at a run down hotel in Akron.  Although it is their day off and a chance to sleep late, Louise gets up early because it is her birthday.  Since Rose doesn't pay the boys, they have had to steal things from the five and dime to give her presents.  Rose's present is a lamb which will go into the act as part of a new barnyard routine she has dreamed up, complete with a cow costume.  In honor of Louise's birthday, Rose has somehow produced a cake and is heating up chow mein and egg rolls for breakfast.

The hotel manager, smelling food, arrives to holler at Rose for cooking in her room, which is forbidden.  He suddenly notices that the room has more people and animals than are allowed as well.  Rose manages to push him alone into one of the two rooms and shout as if he has attacked her.  Thwarted, he leaves just as Herbie shows up with Mr. Goldstone, the booker for the Orpheum Circuit.  Herbie, acting as agent for the troupe, has gotten a booking on the Orpheum Circuit.

This is the culmination of Rose's dream and she babbles out the first thing she can think of:

Have an egg roll, Mr. Goldstone,
Have a napkin, have a chopstick, have a chair!
Have a sparerib, Mr. Goldstone--
Any sparerib that I can spare, I'd be glad to share!
Have a dish, have a fork,
Have a fish, have a pork,
Put your feet up, feel at home.
Have a smoke, have a coke,
Would you like to hear a joke?
I'll have June recite a poem!
Have a lichee, Mr. Goldstone,
Tell me any little thing that I can do.
Ginger-peachy, Mr. Goldstone,
Have a kumquat--have two!
Everybody give a cheer--
Santa Claus is sittin' here--
Mr. Goldstone, I love you!

Have a goldstone, Mr. Egg Roll,
Tell me any little thing that I can do.
Have some fried rice, Mr. Soy Sauce,
Have a cookie, have a few!
What's the matter, Mr. G.?
Have another pot of tea!
Mr. Goldstone, I love you!

There are good stones and bad stones
And curbstones and Gladstones
And touchstones and such stones as them!
There are big stones and small stones
And grindstones and gallstones,
But Goldstone is a gem.

There are milestones, there are millstones,
There's a cherry, there's a yellow, there's a blue!
But we don't want any old stone,
Only Goldstone will do!

Moonstone, sunstone--we all scream for one stone!
Mervyn Goldstone, we love you!

Sondheim:  "There's one big laugh in GYPSY where Rose, who's trying to book her act, changes from fierce one second to smiling good nature the next when she finds out that the act is finally booked, and she sings, HAVE AN EGG ROLE, MR. GOLDSTONE. The trouble with that song is that once that line was started and there was a big laugh, it was all over, there was nothing else to say, and I had to fill out two or three minutes of plays on words.  If you could stop that song after the first line it would have brought down the house."

Little Lamb

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.  Louise has slipped away to the smaller room where she sits with her stuffed animals and the new live lamb she has been given for her birthday.  Wistfully, she sings:

Little lamb, little lamb,
My birthday is here at last.
Little lamb, little lamb,
A birthday goes by so fast.
Little bear, little bear,
You sit on my right, right there.
Little hen, little hen,
What game should we play, and when?
Little cat, little cat,
Ah, why do you look so blue?
Did somebody paint you like that,
Or is it your birthday, too?
Little fish, little fish,
Do you think I'll get my wish?
Little lamb, little lamb,
I wonder how old I am.
I wonder how old I am. . .
Little lamb!

During out of town tryouts, when the show was 45 minutes too long, Robins cut LITTLE LAMB.  Styne asked him to put it back and Robbins refused; Styne then threatened to withdraw the entire score and so LITTLE LAMB went back in the show.

You'll Never Get Away From Me

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.  The act arrives in New York, where Herbie, Rose, Louise and June eat at a posh Chinese restaurant.  The others can't prevent Rose from scraping the leftover food into cartons and stealing the silverware.  Herbie tries to talk Rose into giving up the act because the Depression and talking pictures are killing vaudeville, but she is set on June headlining on Broadway.  Herbie threatens to walk out, and Rose sweet talks him:
Rose: You'll never get away from me.
You can climb the tallest tree,
I'll be there somehow.
True, you could say, "Hey, here's your hat,"
But a little thing like that
Couldn't stop me now.
I couldn't get away from you
Even if you told me to,
So go on and try!
Just try,
And you're gonna see
How you're gonna not at all get away from me!
Herbie: Ah, Rose,
Rose, I love you,
But don't count your chickens.
Rose: Come dance with me.
Herbie: I warn you
That I'm no Boy Scout.
Rose: Relax a while--come dance with me.
Herbie: So don't think
That I'm easy pickin's--
Rose: The music's so nice--
Herbie: Rose!
'Cause I just may
Some day
Pick up and pack out.
Rose: Oh no, you won't,
No, not a chance.
No arguments,
Shut up and dance.
Both: I couldn't get away from you
Even if I wanted to--
Rose: Well, go on and try!
Just try-
Herbie: Ah, Rose--
Rose: And you're gonna see--
Herbie: Ah, Rose--
Rose: How you're gonna not at all
Get away from me!

This is one of Jule Styne's "trunk tunes", written for a movie that never got made called PINK TIGHTS.  It was originally called WHY DID YOU HAVE TO WAIT SO LONG but Sammy Cahn had never completed the lyric.  At the time, Sondheim didn't know that Leo Robin had also written lyrics for it under the title I'M IN PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS for a TV version of RUGGLES OF RED GAP where it was sung by Michael Redgrave.  If Sondheim had known about this completed lyric, he never would have agreed to work with this wonderful tune.

Sondheim and Styne wrote a song for Klugman called NICE SHE AIN'T but  when they presented it to him a week before the show was going to New York, Klugman decided against tackling it.

Dainty June and Her Farmboys

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.  The new act, the one with the cow Rose dreamed about, auditions for a crack at Broadway.  The introductory music is the same as the old act, except the boys are dressed as farmers instead of newsboys, and Louise is now the front end of the cow.  In the book JULE, THE STORY OF COMPOSER JULE STYNE by Theodore Taylor, Sondheim mentions that the "cow number" was one of Styne's "trunk songs", meaning from unproduced shows or movies or cut from other productions.
Farmboys: Extra!  Extra!  Hey look at the headline!
Historical news is being made!
Extra!  Extra!  They're drawing a red line
Around the biggest scoop of the decade!
A barrel of charm, a fabulous thrill!
The biggest little headline in vaud-e-ville!

Presenting--in person--that five-foot-two bundle of dynamite:  Dainty June!

June: Hello, everybody!  My name is June.  What's yours?

I have a moo cow, a new cow, a true cow
Named Caroline.

Cow: Moo moo moo moo--
June: She's an extra special friend of mine.
Cow: Moo moo moo moo--
June: I like everything about her fine.
Cow: Moo moo moo moo--
June: She likes to moo in the moonlight
When the moody moon appears.
And when she moos in the moonlight,
Gosh, it's moosic to my ears!
She's so moosical . . .
She loves a man cow, a tan cow who can cow
Her with a glance.
When he winks at her, she starts to dance,
It's what grownups call a real romance,
But if we mooved to the city
Or we settled by the shore,
She'll make the mooooooooove,
'Cause she loves me more!

If Mama Was Married

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.  The Broadway producer wants June but not the act, and Rose doesn't want to give up her control of her Baby.  June marvels that Louise is never jealous of her, but Louise feels she has no talent and just longs for a home.  June reveals she hates the act, pretending that she's younger than she is, but she longs to be an actress.  They both want their mother to marry and settle down, Louise so she can stop performing and June so that she can get out from her mother's control.  They sing:
Louise: If Momma was married we'd live in a house,
As private as private can be:
Just Momma, three ducks, five canaries, a mouse,
Two monkeys, one father, six turtles and me . . .
If Momma was married.
June: If Momma was married, I'd jump in the air
And give all my toeshoes to you.
I'd get all those hair ribbons out of my hair,
And once and for all, I'd get Momma out, too . . .
If Momma was married.
Louise: Momma, get out your white dress!
You've done it before--
June: Without much success--
Momma, God speed and God bless,
Louise: We're not keeping score--
Both: What's one more or less?
Oh, Momma say yes
And waltz down the aisle while you may.
Louise: I'll gladly support you,
I'll even escort you--
June: And I'll gladly give you away!
Both: Oh, Momma, get married today!
June: If Momma was married there wouldn't be any more--
"Let me entertain you,"
Louise: "Let me make you smile."
June: "I will do some kicks."
Louise: "I will do some tricks."
June: Sing out, Louise!
Louise: Smile, baby!
Both: Momma, please take our advice:
Louise: We aren't the Lunts.
June: I'm not Fanny Brice.
Both: Momma, we'll buy you the rice,
If only this once
You wouldn't think twice!
It could be so nice
If Momma got married to stay.
But Momma gets married--
And never gets carried away.
Oh, Momma,
Oh, Momma,
Oh, Momma, get married today!

All I Need is the Girl

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.  This number seems to stage itself; the lyrics and the spoken lines seem to indicate what the performers should do.  I am reminded of the anecdote Sondheim tells of working with Jerome Robbins when he was trying to stage MARIA from WEST SIDE STORY.  Sondheim learned from Robbins: "Those of us who write songs should stage each number within an inch of its life in our own heads when we write... I mean, really plot everything in detail...[The director and the choreographer] may not use anything in your blueprint at all, but they have something to work on, something to build from. And so you're collaborating with them."  And this number seems a classic example of this.  It's also an amazing blend of Sondheim's lyrics and Laurents' dialogue melded together into a seamless whole.

This song has so much going for it, besides the wonderful Jule Styne melody and Sondheim's perfect lyrics.  It's all about longing to make it in show business, which I'm convinced everyone in the world can identify with, it's got the subtext of Louise, who has a crush on Tulsa, just happy to spend some time with him and then, oh bliss, right at the end he asks her to dance with him for the last couple of bars.  In the film, Natalie Wood wears the back end of the cow costume  (from the Dainty June and her Farmboys number earlier).  This is not indicated in the Laurents play, but in the film Natalie Wood is so delicate and beautiful and perfect in this huge cow costume, it's quite touching.

Writing in ANYTHING GOES (Oxford University Press 2013) , Ethan Mordden says of this number:  "Here GYPSY breaks a cardinal rule:  Never give a character number to a nobody.  But then, it's not Tulsa's solo as much as it is Louise's second duet."

Paul Wallace played Tulsa, one of the chorus boys Mama Rose has hired.  These chorus kids are so interchangeable to Rose, she knows them only by the city where they joined the troupe.  However, Tulsa has plans beyond being in the chorus, his own nightclub act a la Astaire.

Backstage  in the alley behind the theatre between shows one day, Louise asks, "Tulsa, tell me about your nightclub act".

OK.  Well, you see, I pretend I'm home getting dressed for a date. I take a comb; I comb my hair.  I take a flower, smell it, and put it in my lapel; And then I spot the audience!

Once my clothes were shabby,
Tailors called me "Cabbie,"
So I took a vow,
Said "This bum'll
Be Beau Brummell."
Now I'm smooth and snappy;
Now my tailor's happy.
I'm the cat's meow,
My wardrobe is a wow:
Paris silk, Harris tweed,
There's only one thing I need.
Got my tweed pressed,
Got my best vest,
All I need now is the girl!
Got my striped tie,
Got my hopes high,
Got the time and the place, and I got rhythm--
Now all I need's the girl to go with 'em!
If she'll
Just appear, we'll
Take this big town for a whirl,
And if she'll say "My
Darling, I'm yours" I'll throw away my
Striped tie and my best pressed tweed--
All I really need
Is the girl.

I start easy. . . Now I'm more--debonair. . . Break!  Then I sell it here. . . I start this step, see, and build it--and double it.  She appears all in white!   I take her hand--kiss it--and lead her on the floor. . . This step is good for the costume. . . Astaire bit!

Now we waltz.  Strings come in.  And I lift her!  Again.  Once more!  And now the tempo changes.  And all the lights come up.  And I build to the finale!

(On the sidelines, Louise has been trying to follow along as Tulsa mimes dancing with a partner.  Tulsa suddenly notices her and gets her to join in.)

Louise, give me your hand!  Faster!  Charleston!  Again!  Again!

Everything's Coming Up Roses

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.  The opening portion is from a Jule Styne number that had been thrown out of HIGH BUTTON SHOES in 1947 when it was called IN BETWIXT AND BETWEEN.  Sondheim decided to restrict the lyrics to images of traveling, children and show business because the scene was a railroad station and was about a mother pushing her child into show business.  Laurents on Jerome Robbins' reaction to the song:  "He didn't like the title.  He was in utter dismay, and he said, 'But that's her name!'"

At a train station, Herbie and Rose wait for Louise and June to show up.  All the chorus boys have suddenly quit, and they won't tell Herbie why.  Louise runs up with a note from June.  She has secretly married Tulsa and they have run off to perform his act.  Herbie once again proposes to Rose; like the chorus boys, he thinks there is no possibility of the act going on now without June.  But Rose is not ready to give up on her dream; she decides to transfer it to Louise.

I had a dream,
A dream about you, Baby!
It's gonna come true, Baby!
They think that we're through,
You'll be swell, you'll be great,
Gonna have the whole world on a plate!
Startin' here, startin' now,
Honey, everything's coming up roses!
Clear the decks, clear the tracks,
You got nothin' to do but relax
Blow a kiss, take a bow--
Honey, everything's coming up roses!
Now's your inning--
Stand the world on its ear!
Set it spinning,
That'll be just the beginning!
Curtain up, light the lights,
You got nothin' to hit but the heights!
You'll be swell,
You'll be great,
I can tell--
Just you wait!
That lucky star I talk about is due!
Honey, everything's coming up roses for me and for you!

You can do it,
All you need is a hand.
We can do it,
Momma is gonna see to it!

Curtain up, light the lights,
We got nothin' to hit but the heights!
I can tell,
Wait and see!
There's the bell,
Follow me,
And nothin's gonna stop us till we're through!
Honey, everything's coming up roses and daffodils,
Everything's coming up sunshine and Santa Claus,
Everything's gonna be bright lights and lollipops,
Everything's coming up roses for me and for you!

This is one of the most powerful first act curtains I've ever seen:  The absolute steamroller quality that Ethel Merman brings to this number.  The total despair of Herbie and, especially Louise, who has for a brief moment thought she could escape from the grind of show business where she knows she is second rate, only to have that escape snatched away by her mother's relentless need to succeed.

Together, Wherever We Go

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.  The act, including the same inappropriate newsboy introduction, has been reconstituted as Mme. Rose's Toreadorables, with Louise in a blonde wig, surrounded by a chorus of girls.  Louise is even worse doing the splits and baton twirls than she was as a backup to June.  Rose refuses to give up, however.  The cow is still in the act as well.  Louise tries to tell her mother she is not June and putting her in a blonde wig won't make her June, she wants to give up, but Rose insists things will work out because Louise is not alone, she has her mother and Herbie.  (This number appeared only in the initial release of the film, and has now disappeared from subsequent releases.)
Rose: Wherever we go,
Whatever we do,
We're gonna go through it together.
We may not go far.
But sure as a star,
Wherever we are, it's together!

Wherever I go, I know he goes.
Wherever I go, I know she goes.
No fits, no fights, no feuds and no egos--
Amigos, together!

Through thick and through thin,
All out or all in,
And whether it's win, place or show,
With you for me and me for you
We'll muddle through whatever we do
Together, wherever we go!

Rose, Herbie and Louise: Wherever we go,
Whatever we do,
We're gonna go through it together.
Rose: Wherever we sleep--
Louise: If prices are steep--
Herbie: We'll always sleep cheaper together.
Rose: Whatever the boat I row, you row--
Herbie: A duo!
Rose: Whatever the row I hoe, you hoe--
Louise: A trio!
Rose: And any IOU I owe, you owe--
Herbie: Who, me?  Oh,
No, you owe!
Louise: No, we owe--
All: Together!
We all take the bow,
Rose: Including the cow,
All: Though business is lousy and slow.
Rose: With Herbie's vim, Louise's verve--
Herbie and Louise: Now all we need is someone with nerve--
Rose (mock sweet): Together--
Herbie and Louise: Together--
Rose: Wherever--
Herbie and Louise: Wherever--
All: Together wherever we go!

Louise comes up with the idea that the chorus girls should dye their hair blonde and be called the Hollywood Blondes.  Louise alone will be dark haired because she's the star.  Louise wants the act to be called Louise and her Hollywood Blondes; Rose insists it be called Rose Louise and Her Hollywood Blondes.

According to THE MAKING OF GYPSY by Keith Garebian, the Second Act originally opened with a comic song entitled SMILE, GIRLS, in which Rose coached the Toreadorables on selling the act with a smile, even if something goes wrong.  They sat around her in a semi-circle, and she sang:

Smile, girls,
And you'll lay 'em in the aisle, girls.
When you smile, girls,
You don't need a plot.

The chief humor of the number was that Rose could not remember the name of one of the girls, just as she had given the boy chorus the names of the cities where they had joined the show.  But the number was dropped in Philadelphia during the pre-opening tryout, replaced by TOGETHER, WHEREVER WE GO.  

You Gotta Get a Gimmick

In her autobiography ON STAGE AND IN SHADOWS (iUniverse 2005), Marie Wallace (who was a chorus girl in this, her first Broadway show) writes that this song wasn't written until after the producers hired Faith Dane (Mazeppa) who auditioned doing bumps and grinds playing THE CALL TO THE POST, the trumpet music played just before a horse race.  She knocked them [the creative team] out with her audition, and they hired her without actually having a number for her.  Somewhere between that audition and the start of rehearsals, the number was written.  Dane was part of the cast hired before the show was written, when director Robbins anticipated there being more burlesque numbers in it. 

By accident Herbie books the reconstituted act into a burlesque house that mainly features strippers.  Rose wants to leave immediately but Louise points out that they're broke and need the money.  Rose reveals she's had a dream of defeat and asks Herbie to marry her.  They decide to get married when their two-week date in burlesque is over.  Herbie intimidates the stagehands to clean up their language while the troupe is in the theatre.  They meet Tessie Tura, the stripper whose dressing room they'll be sharing.    When Louise mentions they've been touring the country like gypsies, Tessie suggests she name herself Gypsy Rose Louise if she ever takes up stripping.  Two other strippers, Mazeppa and Electra enter the dressing room.  They assume Louise is a stripper, but she tells them she has no talent.  Tessie says no talent is a prerequisite for stripping.   Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Mazeppa: You can pull all the stops out
Till they call the cops out,
Grind your behind till your banned,
But you gotta get a gimmick
If you wanna get a hand.

You can sacrifice your sacro
Workin' in the back row,
Bump in a dump till your dead.
Kid, you gotta get a gimmick
If you wanna get ahead.

You can--!, you can--!, you can--!!!
That's how burlesque was born.
So I--!  and I--! and I--!
But I do it with a horn!

Once I was a schlepper,
Now I'm Miss Mazeppa
With my Revolution in Dance.
You gotta have a gimmick
If you wanna have a chance!!!

Electra: She can--!, she can--!, she can--!!!
They'll never make her rich.
Me, I--!  and I--!  and I--!!!
But I do it with a switch!

I'm electrifying,
And I'm not even trying.
I never have to sweat to get paid.
'Cause if you got a gimmick,
Gypsy girl, you've got it made.

Tessie: All them--!s and them--!s and them--!!!s
Ain't gonna spell success.
Me, I--! and I--! and I--!!!
But I do it with finesse!
All: You're more than just a mimic
When you got a gimmick--
Take a look how different we are!
Electra: If you wanna make it,
Twinkle while you shake it.
Tessie: If you wanna grind it,
Wait till you've refined it.
Mazeppa: If you wanna bump it,
Bump it with a trumpet!
All: So get yourself a gimmick
And you too
Can be a star!

Let Me Entertain You

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.  At the end of their two week run in burlesque, Herbie is all set to marry Rose.  Rose however has heard that the featured stripper has been arrested and the theatre owner is in dire need of a replacement.  She volunteers Louise.  She tells her all she has to do is walk around the stage and drop a shoulder strap.  It's the star spot.  Rose asks Louise not to walk out like June; at least not until she's a star.  She pins up Louise's hair to make her look classier.  She gives the conductor the old LET ME ENTERTAIN YOU music for the strip.  Herbie has gone into the alley to throw up and now returns to tell Rose he's leaving.  Louise, dressed in an outfit she had been sewing for Tessie, sees herself in the mirror and discovers she's a pretty girl, giving her the confidence to go through with this.

A stagehand announces:  Wichita's one and only Burlesque Theatre presents Miss Gypsy Rose Lee!

(This number was staged very cleverly to make the audience initially identify with Louise:  the floodlights are directed toward the audience to make them feel as if they are on stage.)

Let me entertain you,
Let me make you smile.
Let me do a few tricks,
Some old and then some new tricks--
I'm very versatile.
And if you're real good,
I'll make you feel good--
I want your spirits to climb.
So let me entertain you
And we'll have a real good time--yessir!
We'll have a real good time!

Rose's Turn

Writing in ANYTHING GOES (Oxford University Press 2013), Ethan Mordden says:  "So far, we have seen a divertissement entitled GYPSY.   Now comes the truth about a human being named Rose, performing on 'stage' with the scenery of her life, just as 'Rose's Turn' reprises snatches of her music.  For five minutes, GYPSY becomes a meta-musical, so now we get Rose's explanation of why she didn't get into show biz as a performer."

Louise is now Gypsy Rose Lee, a success in burlesque, a world famous headlining French-speaking stripper.  Rose is no longer welcome back stage but that doesn't keep her away.  She and Gypsy have a fight over Rose's continuing domineering ways, which winds up with Rose asking why did she go to all this trouble to make Louise a star?  Rose imagines herself center stage, a star in her own right.

Click here for a 30-second soundbyte from the original Broadway cast album.

Here she is, boys!  Here she is, world!
Here's Rose!!

Curtain up!!!
Light the lights!!!
Play it, boys!
You either got it,
Or you ain't---
And, boys, I got it!
You like it?

(The Orchestra responds:  Yeah!)

Well, I got it!
Some people got it
And make it pay,
Some people can't even
Give it away.
This people's got it
And this people's spreadin' it around.
You either have it
Or you've had it.

Hello, everybody, My name's Rose.  What's yours?
How d'ya like them egg rolls, Mr. Goldstone?

Hold your hats,
And hallelujah,
Mamma's gonna show it to ya!

Ready or not, here comes Momma!

Momma's talkin' loud,
Momma's doin' fine,
Momma's gettin' hot,
Momma's goin' strong,
Momma's movin' on,
Momma's all alone,
Momma doesn't care,
Momma's lettin' loose,
Momma's got the stuff,
Momma's lettin' go--


Momma's got the stuff,
Momma's got to move,
Momma's got to go--

Momma's gotta let go!

Why did I do it?
What did it get me?
Scrapbooks full of me in the background.
Give 'em love and what does it get you?
What does it get you?
One quick look as each of 'em leaves you.
All your life and what does it get you?
Thanks a lot--and out with the garbage.
They take bows and you're battin' zero.
I had a dream--
I dreamed it for you,
It wasn't for me, Herbie.
And if it wasn't for me
Then where would you be,
Miss Gypsy Rose Lee!
Well, someone tell me, when is it my turn?
Don't I get a dream for myself?
Startin' now it's gonna be my turn!
Gangway, world,
Get offa my runway!
Startin' now I bat a thousand.
This time, boys, I'm takin' the bows and
Everything's coming up Rose--
Everything's coming up Roses--
Everything's coming up Roses
This time for me!
For me--
For me--
For me--
For me--
For me--
For me!

This is nothing less than a musicalized nervous breakdown.  Rose's stuttering at the word "mama" indicates her mind cracking.  Sondheim recalled Merman had only one question about this emotional stutter:  "Does it come in on the downbeat?"

The way this was staged, the actress playing Rose takes her bows to tumultuous applause from the audience, but after that applause dies down, she continues to bow, so it becomes clear that the applause is all in her own head.  Gypsy comes out of her dressing room and has a momentary rapproachment with her mother, lending her her mink coat, as they leave the theatre together.

Update:  August 17, 2016, had an email from Bobby Crowe, who tells me that originally the show ended on Mama Rose's bow, "but it was too strong for out of town audiences".  He further explains that the stutters were a reference to a nightmare ballet cut from the show, in which Baby June danced with a life-size doll, and calls out to  her mother like this, but "it stopped the show so cold, it had to be taken out." 

Martin Gottfried in his liner notes for the remastered CD of GYPSY (1986) gives total credit to Sondheim for this "climactic, hallucinatory solo" saying:  "Although this extraordinary number is credited to Styne and is a collage of several of his songs for the show, its assembly and structure were in fact conceived by Sondheim", the bones of it worked out by Sondheim and Robbins when a ballet the director intended for this spot was never choreographed for lack of time before the opening.  Using the vamp from SOME PEOPLE, Sondheim started to build ROSE'S TURN.  "The nervousness of the vamp, he thought, would communicate exactly what was making Rose fall apart; . . . then he patched in 'I had a dream' from the verse of EVERYTHING'S COMING UP ROSES, making a reference to the dreams that were an ongoing theme in Laurents' script."  In order to give the number the distorted quality of a mental breakdown, Sondheim rearranged the meter and harmonies of SOME PEOPLE "so that its driven but optimistic quality became soured, almost demented."

Laurents:  "ROSE'S TURN was an explosion for which the character had been heading throughout the play.  It's an emotional summation in words and music. . . Merman was marvelous in rehearsal.  She was very professional and very willing.  You couldn't have asked for any star to act better than she did.  But she did balk when I brought in an addition to the last scene where she would say, 'I did it for me.'  She didn't want to say it.  But that was one of the necessities . . . to have her face herself and admit that . . . and to have the girl admit that it wasn't talent, but her mother who got them there.  They have to give it to each other."

Sondheim:  "GYPSY says something fairly hard to take:  that every child eventually has to become responsible for his parents.  That you outgrow your parents and then eventually they become your responsibility . . .  they become your children.  It's something that everybody knows but no one likes to think about a lot . . . the last scene is what the play is about--the unpleasant truth of it.  I think it's quite moving.  But it's not very cheerful."

Laurents on the staging of the Angela Lansbury revival:  "Rose, in her daughter's fur coat, turns and looks at the runway and the lights start to come up . . . and as she looks at them, they go out.  Rose is through.  It's very lonely and sad.  She misled her life and she's the only person in the show who never gets the recognition she wants. "

Sondheim:  "GYPSY holds up so well because it's about people.  I believe it's one of the best shows ever written . . . the last good one in the Rodgers and Hammerstein form."  In a presentation to an invited Dramatists Guild audience, Sondheim opined, "I'm very proud of GYPSY, but when it was all over I thought, 'That's the last one of those I want to do.  Now let's try different things'."  (BROADWAY SONG & STORY, edited by Otis L. Guernsey, Jr., Dodd, Mead & Company 1985)

All lyrics posted copyright 1959 by Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim,
Williamson Music, Inc. and Stratford Music Corporation, Chappel & Co.

For rights to put on the show, contact Tams Witmark

Commentary by Judy Harris

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