BootLeg Betty

BetteBack December 12, 1993: Bette Midler pulls out all the stops in ‘Gypsy’

Lowell Sun
Bette Midler pulls out all the stops in ‘Gypsy*
December 12, 1993

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Everything’s coming up roses?

As far as Bette Midler is concerned, absolutely.

She looks like a shoo-in for another Emmy for her powerhouse, all-systems-are-go performance as Mama Rose in CBS’s splendid re-creation of the 1959 Broadway musical Gypsy.

The special three-hour broadcast, tonight at 8 p.m., EST, perfectly defines the concept of event television.

The first Mama Rose was Ethel Merman, using her last appearance in a Broadway show to crown a legendary career with her most memorable performance.

Midler appears to have been made for this role of primal stage mother. Rose is a monaster, pure and simple, trying to realize her own frustrated ambitions through the incessant pushing and manipulating of her daughters, June and Louise.

The woman is anything but lovable. But it is the genius of Arthur Laurents s book, Jule Styne’s music and Stephen Sondheim’s lyrics that her sheer energy and determination can leave audiences in a state approaching awe.

From the moment she storms into a Seattle audition for child performers shouting, “Sing out, Louise, sing out!,’’ Midler’s Rose exudes enough brass to satisfy the most demanding of Merman fans. This Rose can toss off wisecracks with finesse and belt a lyric into the rafters.

The lavish production is painstaking, from Bonnie Walker’s re-creations of Jerome Robbins’s original choreography to Bob Mackie’s snazzy costumes.

The supporting cast is strong, from major roles (Peter Riegert as Herbie the manager, Cynthia Gibb as Louise, Jennifer Beck as Dainty June, cmd Christine Ebersole as the stripper Tessie Tura) to choice cameos (Edward Asner as Rose’s father).

In the end, Rose just wants to be noticed. Midler makes sure of that in the performance of her career. So far.

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