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Feb 032013
 

Gyspy Loretta Goggi 346x500 Goggi shines but Gypsy deludes in its Italian premièreStyne and Sondheim’s Gypsy is the Ham­let of the musical theatre: many try, many fail, but a suc­cess in the role adds a magical aura to a career. Thank good­ness that Lor­etta Goggi, as Italy’s first Rose, had the taste, guts, and believab­il­ity to carry it off, because it was one of the few things that truly worked in this production.

Goggi cer­tainly didn’t give a per­fect per­form­ance; her voice is in shreds and, at least on the last night of the Milan run, some pre-recorded pas­sages were used to take the pres­sure off her ail­ing chords. But Goggi is one of those Minnelli-like ‘give it all you’ve got’ per­formers, who moves you with her com­mit­ment, hits the emo­tional g-spot with her tim­ing and act­ing skills, and her vocal tech­nique keeps her tired voice in tune. Also to keep Rose sym­path­etic to an audi­ence is notori­ously dif­fi­cult, but Goggi always wears her heart on her sleeve and is so fondly regarded from tele­vi­sion appear­ances over a very long career, that she would be love­able play­ing Myra Hindley.

The other per­formers are weak, though some­times like­able. Louise doesn’t have the  pizzazz to be a cred­ible bur­lesque star, June isn’t flashy enough, and the four boys are sloppy in the cho­reo­graphy. Hav­ing said that, they are squeezed into one of the worst theatre in the world, Milan’s Teatro Nuovo. It has a pro­scen­ium so low that cho­reo­graphic lifts would be risky, and back­stage must be a labyrinth to nego­ti­ate get­ting on and off stage. The singing isn’t all it should be either, though the Gotta Getta Gim­mick trio got an ova­tion from a per­plexed audience.

Tech­nical aspects were dodgy too. Heavy over-miking gave each ges­ture such as remov­ing a coat or open­ing a let­ter a cartoon-like sound effect; the use of mov­ing heads for light­ing is tricky in a musical set in the ‘20s and ‘30s, and some­times a little disco found its way onstage; and the scenery, though seem­ingly inspired by recent rivals, lacked coher­ence and flair.

The heart of the prob­lem though is that the audi­ence doesn’t care about what’s hap­pen­ing on stage, it just waits for the next musical num­ber. Yet a musical that isn’t sung-through should be able to exist as a play if the songs and dance num­bers are removed. This is the start­ing point for the dir­ector and per­formers. When Herbie leaves, when Rose admits she pushed her girls because she just wanted to be noticed, when Louise is repeatedly ignored by her mother and then humi­li­at­ingly manip­u­lated to go on stage and strip, we should be moved. We weren’t.

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