I’ve seen a lot of musicals in my time (been in a few, too) but today I saw the best one ever. And not only that, I also saw the best performance in a musical ever. The musical was Gypsy, playing at the Savoy and playing a briiliant, perfect Rose was the superb Imelda Staunton. We’d seen her as an incredible Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd a few years ago but her Rose exceeded that and shone like a beacon of perfection.
We combined our visit to the Savoy with a long time coming London Day. Mirinda had wanted to see the Dolls’ House exhibition at the V&A Museum of Childhood so we stayed at the flat last night (the girls were with Sue) and headed for Bethnal Green from Canary Wharf. Of course, this was after our usual breakfast at Carluccio’s.
I’m fairly certain I’ve never been to Bethnal Green before (actually I thought it was over near Maida Vale rather than East London). It was a bus ride to new adventure as we drove through small lanes and down busy High Streets. We passed a lot of shipping heritage as the bus drove it’s ever wandering way from ultra modern skyscrapers to small brick tenements lining the Thames.
Eventually (it took quite a long time to get there) we pulled up outside the museum and hopped off the bus.
We spent a delightful time wandering through the ages of doll houses. The museum has a massive collection of them and this exhibition traced them through the history of changing architecture and style as they reflected their real world surroundings. From old Georgian mansions to modern coloured perspex houses on split levels. It was an excellent exhibition, beautifully curated.
On the main floor of the museum, there was also a small display of Alice objects. 2015 marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of the first Wonderland book and they are marking it with a display of how Alice has affected fashion over the years. From above, the display looked quite magical; up close it was a fascinating glimpse into how popular Alice was (and still is).
My personal favourite object was an Alice dress made from material with text from the book and a few of the Tenniel drawings on it. (There’s a photograph in my Flickr account.)
After the museum (which is a delightful journey through childhood and full of little kids) we had a stroll through the garden next door, admiring the many tulips giving some much needed colour to the otherwise joyless surroundings outside the fence. We then hit the Tube for the trip to Covent Garden, where we joined the millions of other tourists wandering aimlessly around.
After a dinner of pizza, we headed for the theatre.
There wasn’t an empty seat in the house (Mirinda thinks we saw Barry Humphries in the audience) and there was a feeling of anticipation of something great about to happen. The musical has received rave reviews (particularly for Imelda) and it was like everyone wanted to see what the fuss was all about.
Saturday night performances on the West End tend to be mostly bus groups from the Home Counties and I think we were in the middle of the Essex contingent. Still, nothing else mattered after the show began.
There are not enough superlatives to truly describe Gypsy. If you take Imelda out of the equation (something pretty much impossible) Lara Pulver as Louise (eventually to become Gypsy Rose Lee) was excellent as was Peter Davison (my favourite Doctor) as Herbie. We last saw Peter in Legally Blonde where I wasn’t so impressed but he was an excellent Herbie tonight. I’d also like to say that the young girl who played Baby June (Isla Huggins-Barr) was tremendous. Her performance was a delight.
But all of that is a mere sideshow because the show belongs to Imelda Staunton. An amazing performance full of pathos, depseration, hope and strength. She shone as the world’s worst stage mother. It will be very difficult to top her performance. I may as well never see another musical because anyone else will just pale into insignificance. A true tour de force. I feel sorry for anyone who will never see this show.