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Can Barbra Streisand bring 'Gypsy' into a new era?

January 6, 2011 |  5:49 pm

The good news for those in Hollywood contemplating a musical with Barbra Streisand is that she has three of the higher-grossing movie musicals of all time.

The bad news is that the most recent of the three came out in 1983.

The singer-actress who won an Oscar for 1968's "Funny Girl,"  followed it up with 1975's  "Funny Lady" and cross-dressed in the shtetl in 1983's "Yentl" is now in talks to star as Mama Rose in a reboot of "Gypsy" with Warner Bros., in news first reported by the New York Post and confirmed today by Streisand's representative.

"Gypsy" is of course the 1959 musical-- Arthur Laurents wrote the book and Stephen Sondheim the lyrics; Jule Styne penned the music -- about Gypsy Rose Lee and her family, loosely based on Lee's memoir. A film version with Rosalind Russell was made in 1962, a TV version was made with Bette Midler in 1993, as well as numerous Broadway revivals over the years, the most recent in 2008. (For a photo gallery of actresses who picked up the Broadway mantle on the silver screen, check out this photo gallery at our sister blog Culture Monster.)

Streisand's capacity for the role aside, the immediate reaction to this news might be: Do a lot of filmgoers know or remember the original  enough for a new film installment  to work? Nostalgia alone rarely sells a remake, no matter how beloved the thing being remade. Do they yearn to see Streisand, best known to a younger generation (if she's known at all) as the daffy mom in "Meet the Fockers," on the big screen in a leading role?

And maybe most important, do enough filmgoers in 2011 want to see a musical in the first place?

Big questions all. But maybe not the biggest one. Musicals, after all, can thrive these days. It's just that the ones that do tend to be shiny pop updates of stage classics, like "Hairspray;" shiny pop originals, like "High School Musical 3"; or shiny pop adaptations of shiny pop stage originals, like "Mamma Mia."

And "Gypsy" ain't shiny -- it's dark and complex, like much of Sondheim's work.

Occasionally a movie musical that's a little rougher around the edges can work  -- "Dreamgirls" and Sondheim's "Sweeney Todd" both did reasonably well within the past five years, for instance. And "Gypsy's" themes of stage-parenting and the pressures of the spotlight feel more of the zeitgeist than ever.

But it's an open question how much a "Gypsy" update with a Lindsay Lohan sheen would sit with the die-hards. And it's an equally open question how well a movie faithful to the 1959 original would sit with everyone else.

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: Barbra Streisand. Credit: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images


Culture Monster: Barbra Streisand as Mama Rose? Why not Patti Lupone?

Musical to movie snubs: Photo Gallery



Comments () | Archives (40)

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I for one believe that if the film gets a magnificent cast It will BE a hit, if the producers want to attract the younger generation perhaps they'll get some of the kids from "Glee" and that alone will bring the masses of kids to the theaters. I for one would like to see Anne Hathaway in the role of Gypsy/Louise opposite Streisand as her mother Mama Rose, and Kirsten Dunst as Baby June. I read elsewhere that no director has been selected. Rob Marshall HAS to do it (since Streisand does not want to direct, she wants just to act) And personally, I think This version of Gypsy will probably be more an adaptation of the original Broadway play rather than a remake of the movie, needless to say, it would probably be an adaptation "adapted" to the 21st century (no pun intended) It will be a hit and the vehicle for Barbra's third Oscar.

I'm sure the producers and director can figure out how the movie should be presented. The news that Streisand may play the role is huge. It's hard to imagine that it won't be a triumph for her.

Actually, I think A Star is Born grossed more than the 3 musicals mentioned. I recall Streisand's ability to sell tickets to all of her movies was questioned when each was first announced. She wasn't considered "pretty" enough to open "Funny Girl". She was too young for "Hello Dolly". She wasn't contemporary enough for "The Owl and the Pussy Cat" and she couldn't open a movie where she wasn't singing " The Way We Were". Oddly enough when you look up the box office results for each of the years she releaseed a film - all of her films were in the top ten if not the number one movie of the year released. It could be argued that "Meet the Fockers" did as well as it did because movie fans of Streisand's hadn't seen her in so long. And she didn't disappoint. I believe it's the most profitable comedy in the history of the category.

As for the comment of younger people not knowing who she is I'd suggest the writer check out the internet for a reference. A little ditty call "Duck Sauce Barbra Streisand" - seen by millions, both domestically and internationally, in a few months has certainly revived interest in her for anyone who wasn't around to appreciate her staggering talents as the most successful entertainment figure - male or female - of the last 50 years. The LA Times could only hope to have that many hits - in a years time.

Like the New York Times, the LA Times has never printed anything positive on Streisand's work completed or speculation of her work to come. So the negative lament in this gossip article is standard fare. Regardless Streisand is always sucessful is her work in theatre, recordings, television, concerts and now as photographer and writer. I have no doubt the LA Times will once again have egg on their face. You off to a good start - a New York Post gossip item beat you in reporting this story.

Sing Out Louise!

Streisand had to practically finance the Academy Award winning Yentl herself to get it made because everyone told her she was crazy. She was told no one would buy her Grammy Album of the Year 'Broadway Album', because it wasn't contemporary enough. Her 50th some-odd album last year debuted at number one last year. Her last tour (2006) was the 2nd highest grosser only behind the Rolling Stones. Her 'co-starring' participation in Meet the Fockers grossed over 500 Million. If that's not enough, even her damn $80 coffee table book about home design is a best seller. If Barbra Streisand wants to star in a movie singing the phone book while standing on her head, the power-that-be would be wise to say YES! Besides, she still looks and sounds AMAZING.

I would love to see Barbra in a remake of Gypsy or ANY musical. Youngsters may control large amounts of money these days, but anyone who loves music will appreciate seeing Barbra perform. I've been hoping to see a good script come along that would pair her in a musical with Hugh Jackman. His performance in the remake of Oklahoma was superb. The public doesn't demand the " rough around the edges" productions---but that is usually what we get served. Please don't discount this production. I sincerely hope to see confirmation soon that this project is underway!

A legendary star in a legendary musical? Of course the audiences will come! And, what a wonderful way for Streisand to cap off her career, and for Warner Bros. to produce another film that will be considered a classic. Wasn't the film version of, "Chicago" a box-office hit? "Gypsy" with Streisand will easily top that.

Well the most recent star to do "Rose's Turn" was Chris Colfer on "Glee" -- so that's a major connection to today's audience.


Mama Rose is the greatest role ever created for a singing actress and is therefore Barbra's by right.


I won't miss it!

Streisand would be a better Mama Rose by sheer default compared to Rosalind Russell. Perhaps a remake would include performers who can actually sing as opposed to the first film cast. Quibble: the Post story said Streisand would act, produce and direct a remake, well within her ability and sensibility. Keep in mind that this is Sondheim, not Bob Fosse.

I have not been to a movie theater in 6 years.
You bet I will go to see this one!!!
One Q I have in mind, can Barbara be edgy enough in this role?

Barbra Streisand:
Twenty years ago a woman by the name of Gloria Stern sent me a contract as an agent. I sent it back because I didn't like the contract. Looking back, that was undoubtedly one of the dumbest things I've ever done. Good luck Barbra and I hope you win. They owe you.


The article doesn't mention Gypsy's score, one (if not the) most awesome ever. Unlike most musicals today, it's one great song after another.

How about getting someone a bit more age appropriate to play the role of Mama Rose? The real Mama Rose was born in 1890 and would have been no older than her mid-40s in the scenes at the end of the show. Barbra is already 68.

Doomed. No one in this generation knows who Gypsy Rose Lee is, and no one probably cares. The marketing campaign would have to be BRILLIANT to bring the unknowing to the theaters. For the rest of us who DO know and LOVE the 1959 film, it'll be near impossible to cast away the memory of Rosalind Russell and Natalie Wood - even for the great Streisand. Although I'll likely go to see it, I'll go grudgingly and with the expectation that it will never measure up.

Dancing Scorpion: STFU!

Now then, Barbra would be magnificent as Mama Rose! Pleeeeaaaase, Barbra, say YES! Everything would be coming up roses for YOU and your adoring fans!

Sorry but she's too old. They would have to use a lot of gauze and de-age her about 20 years.
I loved the movie with Russell and the TV special with Midler. They were both about 40ish, 50ish...the appropriate age. But at 60something, Babs is way too old.

What's with this drama queen. Enough, already. Old Babs looks more manly every year. Not good.

I certainly remember Gypsy Rose and it is one of my favorite movies, mainly because I loved Natalie Wood. I don't think Babs would be a good match for the remake. Hollywood needs to leave this one alone for now. I agree with all the posts, that today's youth is what will make the movie money. It will just end up on DVD rentals/Netflix enertainment for the yuppies from the 60's.

Barbra Streisand is awesome. But not for Rose. Her voice is all wrong and she's way too old.
So there.

I would hardly call Gypsy a Stephen Sondheim work. He wrote only the words, not the music, and the topic was not one of his choosing, but one where he was called in. (Ethel Merman vetoed his writing the music.) The main danger with a Barbra Streisand remake in which she stars and directs (and produces and presumably does everything else) is that it will become a Streisand vanity picture. (Yentl may well be the worst musical ever made). I'm sure that she'll do justice to all the great songs (and she may even persuade Sondheim to write one or two new ones) but get ready for A LOT of closeups.

How is a 70-ish woman supposed to be the mother of Baby June?

As a kid I liked 'some' musicals, but now days they all mostly stink.
Liked "Phantom", "A Chorus Line", "South Pacific", "Funny Girl" and loved "Fame".
Hated "Evita", "Grease", "Carousel", "Yentl" and "Miss Saigon"...was their anything in "South Pacific" they didn't steal?
"Gypsy" is, was and will be a bore.

I am gay and I think Cher is still kinda 'fun' (never really thought of her as a singer though) but I wouldn't cross the street to see "Burlesque" for free.

I won't cross the living room to see this "Rose" when it reruns on cable a year after it opens either.

how much a "Gypsy" update with a Lindsay Lohan sheen would sit with the die-hards.... A billion plus!! Easy money... To those who insinuate and insulting remarks regarding Barbra Streisand's age are "NUTS"... She is lovely as ever and her voice is still a treasure!

here i was, basking in the nostalgia conjured by this article, and then - BAM!
how did LiLo get into the picture? The kid stays OUT of the picture!

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