It has become a cliché in music-theater circles to claim that the role of Mama Rose in “Gypsy” is the greatest Broadway score ever written for a female lead and indeed, in terms of demanding the most of both a top-flight actress and a first-class singer, the role is in a class by itself. That Patti LuPone, who came to prominence originating the completely sung Broadway role of “Evita” but whose acting was deemed too superficial to remain in “Sunset Boulevard,” has agreed to tackle a role for more dramatically demanding at a stage of her career when her pipes are not what they once were is a fascinating development, but the bets are high that LaPone would not take a risk like this if she wasn’t able to pull it off. But even if the performance is a bona fide train wreck, like last week’s pre-New York Ravinia tryout of Elaine Stritch’s new show, even that should be interesting. Thus, all theater-loving eyes and ears will be on Ravinia this weekend as LaPone attempts her first-ever Mama Rose in a staged production directed by Lonny Price and in the classy company of the Chicago Symphony—conducted by Paul Gemignani—playing the full orchestrations of this beloved Jule Styne score, which in case anyone forgot contains such iconic Broadway classics as “Everything’s Coming Up Roses” and “Let Me Entertain You” with the last lyrics that a young Stephen Sondheim wrote for another composer.(Dennis Polkow)
“Gypsy” plays at Ravinia Festival, August 11-13 at 7:30pm, Lake-Cook and Green Bay Roads, Highland Park; (847)266-5100.