- Last Updated: 12:06 PM, January 5, 2011
- Posted: 10:47 PM, January 4, 2011
The role of Mama Rose in "Gypsy" has always attracted great divas, from Ethel Merman to Angela Lansbury, Tyne Daly to Patti LuPone.
And now comes word that the greatest diva of them all -- Barbra Streisand -- is next in line.
Streisand is deep in negotiations to direct, produce and star in a movie version of "Gypsy."
She recently cleared a big hurdle -- 92-year-old Broadway legend Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book to the show.
He's also directed several productions, including the scorching 2008 Broadway revival for which LuPone won a Tony.
"Barbra and I have been getting along very well now for some time," Laurents told me yesterday. "We've talked about it a lot, and she knows what she's doing. She has my approval."
Laurents shares control of "Gypsy" -- perhaps the greatest Broadway musical -- with Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the lyrics, and the estates of Jule Styne, the composer, and Jerome Robbins, the original director.
But everybody on Broadway knows that you can't do "Gypsy" without Laurents' blessing. And he's very particular about who plays Mama Rose and how she plays it.
He was, I'm told, concerned that Streisand might be reluctant to embrace the brutality of the role.
In her drive to make her daughters stage stars, Mama Rose can turn psychotic in a flash. The real Mama Rose killed an agent by pushing him out a window.
But Streisand's a movie star, and movie stars want to be adored.
A lovable, human Mama Rose would be a disaster.
"Barbra and I have had long talks on this very subject," Laurents acknowledged. "She had a mother who she always thought was Mama Rose. I don't want to get into the details, but the point is she knows. She's got it in her. She's going to be much more than people expect."
"Gypsy" was made into a movie in 1962 with Rosalind Russell as Rose. It's a much softer version of the stage show, marred by the fact that Russell never goes for the jugular.
Asked if he'll write the screenplay to the new version, Laurents said: "No! Hollywood is Hollywood, and I've already been there. But I'll be around."
Laurents and Streisand have been friends for decades.
He directed her in her first Broadway show, "I Can Get It for You Wholesale," in 1962. She had a small role, but the critics raved, and her career took off.
A decade later, he wrote "The Way We Were" for her.
"We're talking about 'Gypsy' being a bookend for us," he said. "She began with me, and this will be a grand farewell for us."
BONO and The Edge arrive in New York this week to assess the state of their $65 million danger zone of a musical, "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark."
They've been touring Australia and New Zealand, so they haven't yet seen the show, which has been maiming actors for nearly two months now at the Foxwoods Theatre.
One thing Bono should sort out right away -- even before the incomprehensible second act -- is the sound system.
The Foxwoods, a barn of a theater, probably has the worst acoustics on Broadway. There are numerous "dead spots" throughout the auditorium, and many people who've seen the show complain that they couldn't hear many of the lyrics.
Surely the producers can afford a sound system to correct the problem. I have a pair of Fisher speakers from 1986 that sound better than what they've got at the Foxwoods.
While he's in town, Bono also might want to:
* Write a proper opening number.
* Ditch the annoying Geek comic-book chorus.
* Cut Arachne's embarrassing and campy shoe-shopping number.
* Come up with an ending that packs a little more punch than dropping a giant-size Spider-Man shower curtain.
* Send Reeve Carney to acting school.
* Hire a new bookwriter. (Arthur Laurents?)
There's more, but I'm out of space!