Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Barbra Streisand Can Do Anything, But Can She Play 50 on Film in “Gypsy”?


Yes, we know Barbra Streisand can do anything. She is capable of mesmerizing audiences on film and live in concert.

But now Streisand is reportedly taking on the role of Rose, the hard driving former vaudeville star and stage mother of Gypsy Rose Lee, in a film version of “Gypsy.”

There’s only one problem. Streisand is 73 years young this month. In the famous stage musical directed by Jerome Robbins, Ethel Merman was 51 years old. In the 1962 film, star Rosalind Russell was 55. Subsequent Rose’s (Bernadette Peters, Tyne Daly) have been around the same age.  Bette Midler was 48 when she played Rose on TV and won a Golden Globe Award. Patti Lupone was 58.

Imelda Staunton, coming to Broadway next year in an acclaimed British stage version, is 60.

Rose has two daughters, famously: Louise, and Baby June. Louise tops at around 3o on stage, but is younger on film. Baby June is a teenager.  They can’t be aged up too much, because of course June goes on to be a star. Laura Benanti was 28 when she played Louise on Broadway, in 2008, and won a Tony Award.

Streisand has chosen Oscar winning director Barry Levinson to take charge of this “Gypsy.” Levinson is one of favorite directors, and certainly up to the challenge of making a terrific film. Barbra will no doubt rise to the occasion with carefully chosen actors around her. (I guess in this scenario Benanti could play Louise again– she’s phenomenal.)

But I’m surprised Streisand didn’t to direct “Gypsy” herself. She’s certainly capable. I guess this way she can concentrate on singing all those incredible songs– the soundtrack alone will be the cherry on the sundae. (Columbia Records could start taking orders for it now.)

Richard LaGravenese is writing the script; he made one of my favorite films, “Living Out Loud.” (Rent it now.) He also wrote the last movie Streisand directed and starred in, “The Mirror Has Two Faces,” in 1996.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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