Gypsy is a 1959 musical with music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, and a book by Arthur Laurents. Gypsy is loosely based on the 1957 memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee, the famous striptease artist, and focuses on her mother, Rose, whose name has become synonymous with “the ultimate show business mother.” It follows the dreams and efforts of Rose to raise two daughters to perform onstage and casts an affectionate eye on the hardships of show business life. The character of Louise is based on Lee, and the character of June is based on Lee’s sister, the actress June Havoc.
The musical contains many songs that became popular standards, including “Everything’s Coming up Roses“, “Together (Wherever We Go)“, “Small World”, “You Gotta Get a Gimmick“, “Let Me Entertain You“, “All I Need Is the Girl”, and “Rose’s Turn“. It is frequently considered one of the crowning achievements of the mid-20th century’s conventional musical theatre art form, often called the “book musical“.
Gypsy has been referred to as the greatest American musical by numerous critics and writers, among them Ben Brantley (“what may be the greatest of all American musicals…”)and Frank Rich. Rich wrote that “Gypsy is nothing if not Broadway’s own brassy, unlikely answer to ‘King Lear.'” Theater critic Clive Barnes wrote that “‘Gypsy’ is one of the best of musicals…” and described the character of Rose as “one of the few truly complex characters in the American musical….”