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ETHEL somebody...took Broadway by storm in a show called Girl Crazy the Gershwin boys wrote, did all right in Anything Goes and Du-Barry Was a Lady, made a palpable hit in Annie Get Your Gun, bowled'em over in Call Me Madam...but I can't for the life of me remember her name. Anyway, she played Madame Rose in the original Gypsy and I never thought anyone would have the nerve to replace her. But this Tolentino kid's all right. So's the show.
The director-designer, who calls himself Rubins, directs considerably better than he designs. His set is three quarters masking, and the sightlines start from the waist up if you're more than a couple of rows back. So his blocking is more invisible than good or bad. But the consistently sharp line readings make you think Rubins must have been a beneficial influence.
Musically, Gypsy is a knockout. Jule Styne never before or after wrote a score to compare with it; one suspects lyricist Stephen Sondheim of having contributed measurably to the choice and execution of Gypsy's tunes. And Bob Hoffmann's orchestra does them proud.
Miss Tolentino can sing, too, though a couple of songs--including "Everything's Coming Up Roses," unfortunately--fall detectably out of her range. More important, she can act. David Dunton (rumored to be her husband) can act as well, and makes Herbie a somewhat more complex character than one is used to encountering in a musical. As Gypsy (nee Louise), Phyllis Ward overcomes a piece of miscasting nicely, and as her sister June, Ferrell Page is fine. Also keep your eyes out for a broad the name of Shannon Scarry--but if you don't, it's all right: you can't miss her.
Through the mouths of this intelligent cast, the Arthur Laurents book plays tolerably well, though it introduces more characters and situations than it knows what to do with. Transcendant show personalities (like Ethel what's-her-face) enjoy nothing better than triumphing over sketchy librettos, but the librettos are no less sketchy for it.
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