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Barbra Streisand won't be playing Mama Rose after all, 'Gypsy' writer says [updated]

March 14, 2011 |  4:00 pm

Russell-gypsy Everything is not coming up roses for the proposed big-screen remake of "Gypsy" that would have starred Barbra Streisand.  Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book for the original 1959 Broadway musical, told the Hartford Courant that he has withdrawn permission.

Laurents, who also has directed several Broadway revivals of the show, which features lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and music by Jule Styne, said his decision had nothing to do with Streisand. Some people had suggested the 68-year-old actress was too old to play Rose, the quintessential stage mother of two daughters who grew up to be stripper Gypsy Rose Lee and actress June Havoc.

"She could have done it," the 93-year-old Laurents told the Courant.  (And Streisand had told The Times in February that she was planning on it.) He said his mind was changed following a recent coversation with Sondheim about the purpose of another film version.  "Gypsy" was done for the movies in 1962 with Rosalind Russell, and then again for TV in 1993 with Bette Midler.

"He said, 'What is the point of it?' And I said, 'They have this terrible version with Rosalind Russell wearing those black and white shoes.' And then Sondheim told me something that he got from the British -- and it's wonderful. He said, 'You want a record because the theater is ephemeral. But that's wrong. The theater's greatest essence is that it is ephemeral. You don't need a record. The fact that it's ephemeral means you can have different productions, different Roses on into infinity.'

"So I don't want it now. I don't want a definitive record. I want it to stay alive."

A spokesman for Streisand referred an inquiry to Warner Bros. A studio spokesman could not immediately be reached Monday.

[Updated at 6:20 p.m.: A Warner Bros. spokeswoman said Monday evening, "We are not making it here." She declined to elaborate on the reasons.]

-- Lee Margulies

File photo of Rosalind Russell in the 1962 film version of "Gypsy."