Show queens will be arguing in 2059 when "Gypsy", the Broadway musical, turns 100. In the meantime, there probably will have been umpteen revivals on Broadway (one for next year is already rumored), and maybe even several more movie versions as has recently been announced as well with the legendary, if now too old Barbra Streisand.
I have heard every recording of "Gypsy", from Merman, Lansbury, Tyne, Daly, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone, and two movie soundtracks with Rosalind Russell/Lisa Kirk and this version, featuring the phenomenal Bette Midler. When this first aired in 1993, I was working as a v.j. at a gay bar in West Hollywood, and was told to play this in a small portion of the bar, which got instant boo's from the crowd. Needless to say, within five minutes, it was back on in the entire bar.
More than 20 years have gone by, and in comparing this to the 50+ year old Rosalind Russell movie, I have to say that this version outshines it. Bette is much more believable as the mother of youngsters, teenagers and eventually a young lady, and her devotion to her children is more believable than some of the older women who have played this part. Singing wonderfully with the dramatic flair that only Bette can, she truly is coming up Roses.
Supported by a sweet Peter Riegert as the long-suffering Herbie and Cindy Gibbb as the initially shy Louise who ends up becoming the legendary Gypsy Rose Lee. Familiar stage, film and T.V. stars appear in bit parts, giving this T.V. version a friendly appeal. Even without saying a word, Michael Jeter's expressions say it all. Funny lady Andrea Martin adds flair in a bit as a secretary, while Christine Ebersole is a great headliner of the three strippers. All those bits include five Tony wins, not to mention Bette, soon to attack Dolly Levi.
But any version of this classic musical is going to be judged by how the perfect score is performed, and it is without a doubt flawless. Colorful and perfect in period detail, this helped bring the T.V. musical back. Not live like recent entries, it is an amazing feat. Movie musicals have made a slight comeback on the big screen, but it took the step that the producers of this T.V. special did to speed that up. This is one musical that is fine with the gimmick it has. It doesn't need to add to the huge pot of paradise it is.