Look Back at the Original Production of Gypsy Starring Ethel Merman | Playbill

Archival Photos Look Back at the Original Production of Gypsy Starring Ethel Merman The musical by Arthur Laurents, Stephen Sondheim, and Jule Styne opened 62 years ago at the Broadway Theatre.
Ethel Merman (center) in Gypsy. Friedman-Abeles / The New York Public Library

The original Main Stem production of Gypsy, starring Ethel Merman as Rose, opened May 21, 1959, at the Broadway Theatre. The musical, directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, played two previews and 702 performances before closing on March 25, 1961. The production earned eight Tony Award nominations including for Best Musical.

Gypsy tells the story of an indomitable stage mother who chases vicarious success and stardom as she pushes her daughters through the vaudeville circuit. When Baby June flees the act to elope, Rose vows to make introverted Louise into a star. Arthur Laurents based his book on the memoirs of burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee, with a score by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.

Look Back at the Original Production of Gypsy Starring Ethel Merman

In addition to Merman as Rose, the original production starred Sandra Church as Louise, Jack Klugman as Herbie, and Lane Bradbury as June alongside Kathryn Albertson, Marvin Arnold, John Borden, Patsy Bruder, Gene Castle, Ricky Coll, Marilyn Cooper, Steve Curry, Faith Dane, Imelda D'Honau, Don Emmons, Chotzi Foley, Erving Harmon, Billy Harris, Maria Karnilova, Gloria Kristy, Jody Lane, Merle Letowt, Loney Lewis, Barbara London, Mort Marshall, Jacqueline Mayro, Denise McLaglen, Karen Moore, Peg Murray, ,Theda Nelson, Michael Parks, Joan Petlack, Richard Porter, Marsha Rivers, Joe Silver, Willy Sumner, Carroll Jo Towers, Ian Tucker, Marie Wallace, Paul Wallace, David Winters, and George Zima. Rounding out the company were Leila Martin and Jane Romano as standbys and Sterling Beath, Ivy Ellen, and Jan Tanzy as understudies.

Gypsy featured scenic and lighting design by Jo Mielziner, costume design by Raoul Péne Du Bois, and sound design by Jack Mitnick with stage management by Ruth Mitchell, Lo Hardin, and James Bronson. Visit the Playbill Vault for the complete cast and creative team.

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