The producers of the new Broadway revival of Gypsy must have been sweating yesterday in anticipation of their all-important New York Times review. It's not often that you go into opening night already knowing that both critics for the Times are already on record as disliking your show, but since Gypsy was an Encores! production before it was a Broadway extravaganza — and because it was a bona fide event, casting Patti LuPone in the role everyone assumed she was born to play — both Ben Brantley and Charles Isherwood had weighed in on the show last summer, and neither one of them was really pleased. "Alas," Isherwood wrote, he was "entertained but also disappointed." Brantley led his review, "Marriages made in heaven don’t always translate to earth," and called the production "enjoyable but unenthralling."
That's why it must be such sweet delight for the cast and producers of Gypsy to read the Times's over-the-top rave for the Broadway remount, which might as well be headlined "Ben Brantley Eats His Hat."
We're not kidding — "Yes," Brantley writes, "that quiet crunching sound you hear is me eating my hat." Brantley declares everything about the show pretty much perfect: LuPone, "truly focused," like "a laser"; the supporting cast, including Laura Benanti ("the performance of her career") and Boyd Gaines (who Brantley calls the best Herbie ever); even LuPone's new wig "a vast improvement on her blunt bowl cut of last summer."
It's not just a review, it's a coronation, and it's remarkable in that it's rare to read a critic so bluntly changing his mind. The show's "raw power," Brantley writes, "should be enough to silence any naysayers (myself included), who thought that 2008 was way too early for yet another Broadway revival of Gypsy."