GYPSY [in development]

In Development
Opening: TBA

This page is all about Barbra Streisand's planned big-screen remake of the musical Gypsy.

“GYPSY” Credits

“Gypsy” ... In the Beginning

Merman in Gypsy 1959

Gypsy was a Broadway musical (1959) with tunes by Jules Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents. It originally starred Ethel Merman (pictured above, right) as Rose.

The Advocate provided a great summation of the plot:

One of the great backstage musicals, Gypsy is based loosely on the memoirs of stripper Gypsy Rose Lee, but the focal character is really her ambitious and often frustrated single mother. Mama Rose drags her daughters, Louise and June, to any gig they can get, even as vaudeville is dying in the 1920s. June, first as Baby June and then the adolescent Dainty June, is the star attraction, but when she goes off on her own (she eventually became a noted actress under the name June Havoc), Rose puts Louise out front. As Gypsy Rose Lee, Louise goes on to hit the heights of fame, accompanying her sexy dances with unexpectedly intellectual patter. Rose is left to wonder, in words written by Sondheim, “When is it my turn? Don’t I get a dream for myself?”

Gypsy has had several successful Broadway and London stage revivals. Pictured below, left-to-right: Ethel Merman (1959), Angela Lansbury (1974), Tyne Daly (1989), Bernadette Peters (2003), Patti LuPone (2008), and Imelda Staunton (2015) all playing Rose.

Actresses who have played Rose

Songs (from the Broadway Show)

Act I

Act II

The 2008 recording of the Patti Lupone show included 7 songs from the Sondheim and Styne Estate archives that were cut from Gypsy during the 1959 tryouts.

Film History

Rosalind Russell as Rose

Gypsy Blu ray

Gypsy was made into a movie in 1962 with Rosalind Russell as Rose, Natalie Wood as Louise, and Karl Malden as Herbie. Directed by Mervyn LeRoy, the film was photographed by Streisand's first cinematographer, Harry Stradling. (Trivia: Malden, by the way, played Streisand's father in the 1987 film, Nuts.)

Leonard Spigelgass made changes to Gypsy's plot structure and characters in his screenplay: Rose narrated the film via voice-over; Herbie appeared much earlier in the film (Spiegelgass merged his character with the “Uncle Jocko” character in the opening scene.)

[Warner Archive Collection released the Blu-ray of the 1962 film version of Gypsy. Order here.]

“Some People”—Rose's first number in the show—was flip-flopped with “Small World,” with Spigelgass concentrating on Rose and Herbie's affair before having Rose sing her manifesto.

Besides adding an incongruous cameo appearance by comic Jack Benny, Spigelgass also changed June eloping with Tulsa to June eloping with “Jerry.” And because of that change, he wrote a goodbye scene for Tulsa and Louise.

Gypsy was filmed in 1993 as a made-for-television movie with Bette Midler as Rose, Cynthia Gibb as Louise, and Peter Riegert as Herbie. It was an interesting production with no screenplay credit—director Emile Ardolino filmed Arthur Laurents' Broadway script with no changes, which made the movie very stage-bound. [Order the Midler Gypsy DVD from Amazon by clicking here.]

Midler and Gibb in Gypsy

Streisand Film Version

A new film of Gypsy starring Barbra Streisand has a history that goes back to 1989.

In 1989, news began spreading of Streisand starring in a new film version of Gypsy with Madonna as Louise. The show's Broadway creators addressed it in the press. After the 1962 film, “the show was dead in stock,” Jule Styne explained. “It took almost 30 years to offset that lousy picture.” Writer Arthur Laurents said, “Not for all the money in the world will we let them make another film version of Gypsy.”

In his memoir The Rest of the Story, Laurents wrote about the conversation he had with Streisand around 2009 about making a movie of Gypsy. He recalled that when Streisand asked if he thought she could play Rose, he replied, “No.” “Too old?” Streisand asked. “No,” he replied, “But you'd play for sympathy.”

He explained: “She said she knew Rose because her mother was Rose. She went into details. Her mother made Rose look like Mother Teresa. That Barbra survived was a testament to her determination [...] The three-hour conversation left me with affection for Barbra and convinced she could play Rose if she cut her fingernails and didn't direct.”

Flash-forward to January 2011. News broke that Warner Brothers and producer Joel Silver were developing a film version of the musical Gypsy for Barbra Streisand, who would star as Mama Rose and also produce the film.

Arthur Laurents told the press that “now things are serious and a movie is truly in the works.” Laurents even mentioned that Tom Hanks would be a great addition to the cast as Herbie.

Laurents, not a fan of the 1962 film version starring Rosalind Russell, said, “I would be very pleased if we had a different film version for the historical record.”

As for Streisand being too old for the role (she turned 70 in 2012), Laurents told the New York Times, “First of all, they can do magic in Hollywood. Second, does it really matter?”

Laurents, Stephen Sondheim (who wrote the show's lyrics) and the estates of Jule Styne (music) and Jerome Robbins (original Broadway director) had to approve a new film as they hold the rights to the original Broadway production.

Meanwhile, The King's Speech director, Tom Hooper, was interested in directing Streisand as Rose. (He ended up directing the film version of another Broadway musical, Les Miserables.)

Two months later, after speaking with Sondheim about the project, however, Laurents had changed his mind. Sondheim, Laurents told the press, “told me something that he got from the British — and it's wonderful. He said, 'You want a record because the theater is ephemeral. But that's wrong. The theater's greatest essence is that it is ephemeral. You don't need a record. The fact that it's ephemeral means you can have different productions, different Roses on into infinity.' ” Laurents, therefore, concluded, “So I don't want it now. I don't want a definitive record. I want it to stay alive.”

A week or so after Laurents made it sound like the project was over, it was reported that Universal was interested in the property. Then, sadly, Laurents died on May 5, 2011 at the age of 93.

In May 2011, Gypsy film producer Joel Silver told the New York Times that Laurents gave his blessing (and his signature) to the film version of Gypsy before he died, calling for the film to be “substantially similar” to the stage musical. “I last spoke to Arthur in April,” Silver said, “brought him up to speed on everything, and then I think I surprised him a little by asking him to make the movie with me. I felt that he understood ‘Gypsy’ better than anyone, and that he understood Barbra, since he cast her in her first big musical, ‘I Can Get It for You Wholesale.’ And he said yes. We were talking about him coming out to L.A. in May.”

Producers Barbra Streisand and Joel Silver have set Academy Award®-winning writer Julian Fellowes to pen the screenplay adaptation of Stephen Sondheim and Arthur Laurents’ Tony Award winning musical, Gypsy, which Ms. Streisand and Mr. Silver are currently developing for Universal Pictures. Ms. Streisand will portray “Momma Rose” in the new version

Streisand told more to the press about her Gypsy project in December 2012:

During her 2013 Europe concert tour, a fan in the audience yelled out a question about Gypsy. Streisand answered: "Tell those people who want to know when I will start filming Gypsy to call Stephen Sondheim and ask him." There were internet rumors about what this actually meant, but nothing's been confirmed to date.

In an April 2013 question-and-answer with the New York Times, another fan asked Streisand directly:

Q. Are you still planning to play Momma Rose in “Gypsy”? Please say yes! JIM C., Seattle

A. Yes.

In July 2014, there was a curious, one-sentence story over at Mail Online about Barbra's movie version of the musical Gypsy: “[Matilda director Matthew] Warchus has decided not to do the film version of Gypsy, with Barbra Streisand, because he has too much on.” The 47-year-old director was, instead, to succeed actor Kevin Spacey as the artistic director of England's Old Vic Theatre. [Warchus was most likely attached to the movie because of Julian Fellowes' screenplay; Warchus and Fellowes were working together on a musical stage adaptation of the film Slumdog Millionaire.]

Finke also wrote:

A year ago, I learned that [Streisand] spoke with Silver and Universal about co-directing the musical with Tony Award-winner Matthew Warchus (Matilda, Follies), the British director and dramatist. The only thing standing in their way at that point was obtaining permission from Stephen Sondheim who is the keeper of the Gypsy legacy since Arthur Laurents died and has approval over Gypsy‘s director as well as its 3 main roles. "Sondheim is the only person left who speaks for the whole creative group over the project," Silver explained to me at the time.

Richard LaGravenese, who talked to the press in February 2015 to promote his movie version of the musical The Last Five Years, finally spoke about Gypsy.

Streisand at Gaga at dinner 2015

In interviews with Barbra Streisand since 2016, she has admitted frustration that she has been unable to get her directing projects funded by Hollywood studios, including Gypsy. She has not publicly admitted that she has given up on Gypsy, but in 2017, when asked about her future plans, Barbra said she was still working on directing, and not acting projects.

2019 Update: reported that “New Regency has come aboard to finance, and negotiating to direct is Amy Sherman-Palladino, who is coming off winning four Emmy Awards for writing, creating, exec producing and directing The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Joel Silver is producing.

While Sherman-Palladino's deal had not yet closed at the time of reporting, Deadline also mentioned that “Barbra Streisand has exited the previous incarnation of the project, where Barry Levinson was going to direct at STX with a script by Richard LaGravanese, and Streisand was going to play the iconic Mama Rose. This plan cratered when STX exited in 2016.”


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