BetteBack July 24, 1993: Midler Revives “Gypsy” For Television

Lethbridge Herald
Gypsy Revived
July 24, 1993


LOS ANGELES (CP) – The outrageous Bette Midler wants to revive big-production musicals as the star of Gypsy, the first made-for TV version of the classic Broadway show about the life of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee.

Midler will star as Mama Rose, the legendary stage mother from hell, in the three-hour CBS movie scheduled for broadcast this Christmas.

The Divine Miss M has had more success than most in trying to please audiences with what many regard as an outdated form of entertainment.

She was nominated for an Oscar for her starring role in the 1991 big screen musical, For The Boys.

Midler got another Academy Award nomination and more commercial success in 1979 when she played a drugged-out rock star in The Rose.

“Musicals flourished on television in the ’50s and ’60s,” Midler said when asked if the musical is a dying breed.

“It wasn’t until popular music took a turn towards rock and roll in the early 70S that musical variety shows bit the dust. But I’ve always felt it was a viable formula.”

Midler, who slips in and out of the voice of Miss M, said it can’t be assumed audiences weren’t ready for For The Boys just because it produced poor box office receipts.

“The public was completely ready for it, they just didn’t come to see it,” she quipped. “They had other things to do! They were barbecuing that weekend. … They couldn’t get away.”

Gypsy, which co-stars Ed Asner as father to Midler’s Rose, is a big budget production made for television with all the costly trimmings of feature films, she said.

“It had the full complement of actors and the full complement of studio musicians,” she said. “Nothing was skimped on, except my salary.”

Midler, Asner and crew rehearsed for seven weeks and then shot lengthy scenes as though they were performing a play, she said.

Executive producer Craig Zadan said the film marks the first time a producer has ever shot a play script for a movie, let alone television, without altering it.

“It’s the classic Gypsy,” he said.

“We made no changes, basically, in the script. It’s the same script as the play and the same score as the play.”

Deviating from the original 1959 Broadway production starring Ethel Merman and Jack Klugman proved a mistake for Warner Bros., which made a film version in 1962.

One of the biggest musical numbers was cut and the film, starring Rosalind Russell, Karl Maiden and Natalie Wood, damaged Gypsy’s reputation as one of America’s most admired musicals.

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