Again this is not a Sondheim "joint" (to borrow a term from Spike Lee), as he did not write either the book or the music. It was the second Broadway project he got involved in, after "West Side Story," at the urging of Hammerstein. (Interesting that he got started as a lyricist rather than a composer, but that's another discussion.)
Perhaps the most extraordinary thing about the musical is that it was based on largely real events --- it was adapted from Gypsy Rose Lee's autobiography. Gypsy was a stripper (in burlesque dance) who became an international celebrity and befriended other celebrities such as Picasso, Miro, Chagall, etc. Apparently, her real life is even messier than the plot of the musical. I have suspected it for a while now: Life does not imitate art. Life is weirder and wilder than art.
Gypsy Rose Lee's story may also confirm another suspicion of mine: Today's American society (and perhaps other places as well) is a lot more morally puritanical than certain previous era. It may not be a bad thing. It may be associated with rising status of women more than anything else. I'm the last person to oppose feminism, but it doesn't change the fact that rising feminism could, in certain context, curb a loose and open sexual attitude (think Prohibition). I do not agree with those (mostly men) who claim that women are "naturally" or "biologically" more monogamous than men. Rather, women are more invested in monogamy than men are in most of history.
Gypsy hit the height of her (striptease) career in the 1930s. Gypsy the musical was written and produced in 1950s. In 2010s, such a show would never get on stage. Whether it's progress or regression, I'm in no position to say.
|The real Gypsy|