Burlington Hawk Eye
December 11, 1993
Itâ€™s a solid recipe for holiday-season entertainment: aÂ top entertainer in. a classic musical, and on television, noÂ less.
Originally staged in New York. in 1959 with Ethel MermanÂ as its star, then remounted on Broadway in the earlyÂ 19708 (with Angela Lansbury) and in 1989 (with TyneÂ Daly), â€œGypsyâ€ â€” with its book by Arthur Laurents, musicÂ by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and originalÂ choreography by Jerome Robbins â€” also fueled a 1962Â screen version with Rosalind Russell. It gets a new filmÂ treatment in a three-hour presentation Sunday on CBS,Â with Bette Midler making her TV-movie debut as RoseÂ Hovick, the ultimate â€œstage mother” who p po pel led herÂ daughters Louise (played by Cynthia ^Gibb) and June (Jen -‘nifer Beck) into show-business careers … with LouiseÂ eventually striking out on her own as stripper Gypsy RoseÂ Lee, on whose memoirs the so-qalled â€œmusical fable” isÂ based.
Directed by the late Emile Ardolino. (â€œSister Act,Câ€œDirty Dancingâ€), the production also features Peter Riegel!Â (â€œMiddle Ages,â€ â€œCrossing Delanceyâ€) as the girlsâ€™Â agent and Roseâ€™s love interest, and Edward Asner asÂ Roseâ€™s disapproving father; additional cast members includeÂ Michael Jeter (â€œEvening Shadeâ€), Christine EbersoleÂ (â€˜The Cavanaughsâ€) and Linda Hart. Among the scoreâ€™sÂ memorable songs are â€œEverythingâ€™s Coming Up Rosesâ€
(which became a Merman standard after its debut), â€œLetÂ Me Entertain You,â€ â€œSmall World,â€ â€œAll I Need Is the Girl”Â and â€˜Together, Wherever We Go.”
â€œIâ€™ve always wanted to play that character,â€ says theÂ ever-lively Midler of her â€œGypsyâ€ role, which she filmedÂ just before launching her latest concert tour, â€œbut Iâ€™dÂ never really thought about where I would play it. I wouldÂ have played it in stock, if Iâ€™d had the chance. Itâ€™s just a
great part. The score is extraordinary, and the writing isÂ just incomparable. This was treated like a feature film,Â with the full complement of actors and studio musicians.
We rehearsed for seven weeks before we even set foot on aÂ sound stage, and we did it quickly, but thatâ€™s becauseÂ everybody knew what they were doing, thanks to Emile
With tongue firmly in cheek, Midler reasons Nothing was skimped on, exceptÂ my salary.â€
Her own background in entertainmentÂ makes Midler sympatheticÂ to the plights of all the
major figures rn â€œGypsy,â€ sinceÂ she says from experience, â€œItâ€™s aÂ very hard life, especially if
youâ€™re not in the big, big, bigÂ time. *Youâ€™re tot! tall, youâ€™re tooÂ short, youâ€™re too thin, youâ€™re tooÂ fat, you donâ€™t sing high enough,Â you donâ€™t sing low enough.â€™ ItÂ wears away at your soul after aÂ while.â€ Thatâ€™s why she claimsÂ she would advise her youngÂ daughter Sophie to steer clear ofÂ entering the same field, thoughÂ Midler reports, â€œShe does likeÂ show business. She came on theÂ < â€œGypsyâ€™) set and had a wonderfulÂ time. She just loved theÂ strippers, and sheâ€™s been onÂ other productions with me, butÂ this was the first one where sheÂ knew every single song.â€
Acknowledging that televisionÂ isnâ€™t the flourishing venue forÂ musical projects that it used toÂ be, Midler reflects, â€œIt wasnâ€™tÂ really until popular music itselfÂ took a turn toward rock-and-rollÂ that musical-variety (on TV)Â really bit the dust, but Iâ€™ve alwaysÂ felt it was a viable formula.
Fred Astaire, Judy GarlandÂ and Frank Sinatra all hadÂ their own shows. They actuallyÂ stood there and sang for a half hour, and people tuned in toÂ watch them.â€ In addition to aÂ Tony Award, four Grammys andÂ three Golden Globes, MidlerÂ owns two Emmys; one was given
for her late-1970s special â€œOIâ€™Â Red Hair Is Back,â€ and theÂ other for her farewell salute to
Johnny Carson on his next-tolastÂ â€œTonight Showâ€ last year.
With â€œGypsy,â€ she is particularlyÂ excited by the fact â€œthat its liveÂ singing (recorded at the actualÂ tim e of filming, and notÂ redubbed later in postproduction).
That was a realÂ step forward, something thatâ€™sÂ hardly ever done anymore, andÂ we felt we rose to the occasion.â€
Co-executive producer CraigÂ Zadan (â€œFootlooseâ€) maintainsÂ that Sundayâ€™s film is â€œthe classicÂ â€˜Gypsy.â€™ We basically made noÂ changes in the script of tile play,Â and I think itâ€™s the first timeÂ anyone ever has shot that (originalÂ form of a stage work) as aÂ movie.â€ Longtime Midler associateÂ Bonnie Bruckheimer alsoÂ has produced such screen vehiclesÂ for the performer as â€œForÂ the Boys, â€œBeachesâ€ and theÂ recent â€œHocus Pocus,â€ and sheÂ says she met with originalÂ â€œGypsyâ€ writer Laurents in helpingÂ to prepare the television edition:
â€œWhen I read a script, I amÂ always looking for what theÂ writerâ€™s intention is. In thisÂ case, I spent many long hours atÂ Arthur s house and at dinners,Â getting his point of view about
the material. It was extraordinarilyÂ helpful.
In the concert appearancesÂ she made during the latter hallÂ of 1993, Midler integrated songsÂ from â€œGypsyâ€ into her act, butÂ she insists that wasnâ€™t only toÂ promote the movie. â€œI enjoyÂ singing them,â€ she asserts, â€œandÂ itâ€™s something Iâ€™ve avoided doingÂ throughout my career, singingÂ show tunes, hut I really likeÂ them. With most people who areÂ interested in popular music orÂ rhythm-and-blues, they don’tÂ want anyone to know th atÂ theyâ€™re closet show-tune listeners.â€
Midler may give them moreÂ reasons to declare them selves,Â though, since she now has designsÂ on some other renownedÂ musicals she might tackle.
â€œIâ€™d like to do â€˜Marne,â€™ â€˜AnnieÂ Get Your Gun,â€™ all those kinds ofÂ broad parts,â€ she muses. â€œThÂ scores are so wonderful, and IÂ want my daughter to know all ofÂ that historically. I Â donâ€™t wantÂ her to hear just whatâ€™s on theÂ radio, because I trust my tasteÂ more than I trust a (stationÂ program directorâ€™s taste. IÂ playÂ these things for her, and sheÂ just loves them. I feel bad thatÂ the whole nation doesnâ€™t get t0Â celebrate this tradition moreÂ often, because it is valuable anÂ well-crafted and something weÂ should be proud of … yet weÂ seem to throw aside the magicÂ things weâ€™ve made, or tear themÂ down and trample them MaybeÂ itâ€™s because weâ€™re constantly reinventing ourselves, butÂ personallyÂ I think itâ€™s a real waste.”