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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)

The comments to this entry are closed.

You lied, Barbra. You said you weren't interested in doing musical theater anymore.

Does "Gypsy" have to be brought into a new era? The reason classics attain that status is because they're perfectly good as is; further tampering does more disrespect than justice to the material. Wasn't that tacky Bette Midler movie, which made the Roz Russell movie, flawed as it is, seem like a class act in comparison, bad enough? Or that Emma Thompson feels the need to "redo" "My Fair Lady"?

Find something new to work on.

Sing out Louise!

Anne Hathaway would be excellent casting as Louise, but Baby June needs to be cast for the younger crowd draw and that's not Kirsten Dunst.
The marketing is what will make this thing big with some preview teaser spots on "American Idol", "Dancing With The Stars", "Glee", etc. to draw the core group audience.

After reading some of the comments regarding the "age" issue of Barbra, I've been thinking more and more on the casting or how to treat the subject. Since I still believe this would be an adaptation probably set in modern times (who knows?) or even if it will be a true remake of the original 1962 movie, then why not cast a yonger actress who looks like Barbra and can resemble her solely for the scenes where is needed. They could easily cast Lauren Frost, who looks like Barbra, has worked with Barbra before (on her 2000 Timeless Tour) acting as a "young" Barbra and can sing exactly like Barbra?!! having said that, then I would use her (Ms. Frost) on flashback scenes and then have the majorityof the film concentrate or elaborate more on the part of the story where the daughters are not seven year old kids anymore, perhaps as young adults.

To put it simply: if anyone can pull this off it is Babs. You go, my Lady.

Sure. Why not? Streisand is still one hellagood performer (even at 68!)

Wow! I can't think of anything better than Barbra... in ANYTHING! I will go see it. Hello, Gorgeous!

I agree with those here who think that Streisand is way too old to play Mama Rose. Rose was in her 40s when the majority of this story takes place and Babs is pushing 70. That's too much of a stretch. I'd sooner see Meryl Streep as Rose, and at 61, even she is too old.

As for Streisand's so-called "manly" visage...have any of you ever seen photos of Rose Hovick? She was an unattractive lesbian, making Streisand actually TOO feminine.

But beyond that, instead of doing yet another "take" or remake or whatever of Gypsy, I'd challenge somebody to attempt a film closer to the true story, one based, say, on Gypsy Rose Lee's sister June Havoc's book, "Early Havoc". Then, among other things, we wouldn't have to endure the ridiculous "Herbie" character who never existed in the first place.

Just a thought...

Little do people know that Streisand was recently offered Gary LeGault's new musical, Wind in the Widows, but her representative brushed it off as "mediocre" as did Debbie Reynolds, who it was originally written for. Several songs from it are available for viewing on YouTube. Undaunted, LeGault is now penning a new play for the stage, Lady in the Crossfire, based on the life of Valerie Terrigno, the first openly gay mayor in America, who fell from grace during her brief term in office during 1984.

The age thing is what's wrong here. And it's not Barbra Streisand's fault, it's the audience's. People want too much realism in movies. When Streisand made Prince of Tides in 1991, gay groups got mad because she cast a straight man, George Carlin, as the gay neighbor. No one appreciates irony or romanticism. It's a musical, not a two hour renactment of Gypsy Rose Lee's life for Unsolved Mysteries. Stop being so literal.

1. They should have made it with Judy Garland when the idiots had a chance, then it would never have been remade at all.

2. Streisand still has some powerful pipes....but Mama Rose, well....

3. Oh, let's give Babs something to crow about. It'll be a hit.

To the posting from Dancing Scorpion..

Lighten up dude. What are you, 12!

I think Barbra Streisand would make a terrific Mama Rose. Since Warners botched the 1962 film by hiring Rosalind Russell instead of Ethel Merman, we really never got a full-blown musical version for the big screen. Yes Bette Midler was fine in a TV version but for the big screen Russell was to GYPSY what Lucille Ball was to MAME. Neither one could sing and the marvelous shows suffered because the great music suffered.

Viva la Streisand!

Guys! Streisand has never looked her real age;She has always managed a look of ( at least) a 20 years younger her age.She is lucky enough to look the way she does at 68! And why can't be Mama Rose be a bit older? Cheers! Gerardo

Full disclosure: Have been a big fan of Streisand since her FUNNY GIRL debut in 1968. But will try to remain objective.
For the nay-sayers who nix Streisand as "Mama Rose" due to her age: you people need to come up to (technological) speed. Even cameras for television newscasts can "shave" years off the aging anchors' faces. And that's nothing compared to what movies are capable of through CGI. When in her mid-20s, Streisand could play a 5-year-old in one of her acclaimed television specials. So, at 70, with techno wizardry--not to mention the marvels of lightning, make-up, etc--she could be "de-aged" to play the mother of "Baby June" and "Louise."

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