Patty Lupone has gotten raves for her portrayal of Momma Rose in Gypsy, currently playing at the St. James Theatre on Broadway.  Deservedly so.  It would be nice if all of us could put out so much energy and still be in such good voice when we push sixty.

However, she is not the only star on the St. James stage.  Surely Boyd Gaines as Herbie plays well, but it is Laura Benanti as Louise who wreaked havoc with my emotions.  Always second banana to her cutesy blonde sister, June, Louise dutifully designs and sews her costumes and supports Momma Rose, June and whoever else joins their ragtag traveling act.  Self-effacing and shy, Louise is thrust into the spotlight when June bails on the act, eloping with the dancer upon whom Louise has a secret crush, herself.

But it’s not about that.  It is all about Momma needing to make a star of her daughter.  When June is gone, that role falls to Louise.  Rose tries to make Louise into a version of June, blonde wig and all, but the act is crappy, Louise can’t kick so high and she can’t pull off the split the way June can.  When the opportunity to strip presents itself in a dive at the dark end of the earth–Witchita, Kansas in this case–she realizes her calling and becomes more than just one of a band of gypsies.  She becomes Gypsy Rose Lee, the best and best paid stripper in burlesque.  Gypsy Rose Lee wrote the book, and Laura Benanti writes it all over again with this portrayal.

Baby June is played to a tee by Katie Micha, who switched with Sami Gayle the evening I was there.  She kicks high, splits low and plays cutesy to cause a diabetic to get an attack.

The scene in Witchita where the three aging strippers sing “You Gotta Get a Gimmick,” was a show stopper.  These three tear up the stage.  Marilyn Caskey, Alison Fraser, and Lenora Nemetz are absolutely great!