Gypsy the Musical - PLOT SYNOPSIS

Broadway production (1959)
Gypsy the Musical - PLOT SYNOPSIS

Act I

Rose and her two daughters, Baby June and Louise, play the vaudeville circuit around the United States in the early 1920s. Rose, the archetype of a stage mother, is aggressive and domineering, pushing her children to perform. While June is an extroverted, talented child star, the older girl, Louise, is shy. The kiddie act has one song, "May We Entertain You Lyrics", that they sing over and over again, with June always as the centerpiece and Louise often as one of the "boys" ("Baby June and Her Newsboys Lyrics"). Rose has big dreams for the girls but encounters setbacks, such as attempting to borrow money from her father ("Some People Lyrics"). When Rose meets a former agent, Herbie, she persuades him to become their manager using her seductive and feminine wiles ("Small World Lyrics"). The girls grow up, and June, now billed as Dainty June, and her act have a chance to perform for Mr. Goldstone of the Orpheum Circuit ("Mr. Goldstone, I Love You Lyrics"). Meanwhile, Louise celebrates her birthday alone and asks her birthday present, a lamb, just how old she is this year ("Little Lamb Lyrics"). After Rose rejects Herbie's marriage proposal, he considers leaving, but she asserts that he could never get away from her ("You'll Never Get Away From Me Lyrics").

Now billed as "Dainty June and Her Farmboys", the act finally performs on the Orpheum Circuit ("Dainty June and Her Farmboys Lyrics"). June is soon offered a place at a Performing Arts school after an audition. However, Rose turns this down, refusing to break up the act. Louise and June fantasize what life would be like if Rose were married and finished with show business ("If Momma Was Married Lyrics"). A few months later, still on the road from show to show, Tulsa, one of the boys from the act, confides in Louise that he has been working on his own act ("All I Need Is the Girl Lyrics"), and Louise fantasizes that she and he could do the act together. Shortly after, June is missing, and in a note, she explains that she has grown sick of her mother and the endless tour and has eloped with Tulsa, and they will do a new act. Rose is hurt, but then optimistically vows that she will make Louise a star, proclaiming that "Everything's Coming up Roses Lyrics".


Act II

Louise is now a young woman, and Rose has built a pale imitation of the Dainty June act for her. Using all girls, Rose and Herbie try valiantly to sell "Madame Rose's Toreadorables" to a fading vaudeville industry. However, they are still together ("Together, Wherever We Go Lyrics"). With no vaudeville venues left, Louise and her second-rate act wind up accidentally booked at a burlesque house in Wichita, Kansas, as a means to deter police raids. Rose is anguished, as she sees what a booking in burlesque means to her dreams of success, but Louise persuades her that two weeks' pay for the new act is better than unemployment. As they are introduced to Louise, three of the strippers on the bill advise her on what it takes to be a successful stripper, a "gimmick," something that "makes your strip special" ("You Gotta Get a Gimmick Lyrics"). Backstage, Rose proposes marriage to Herbie. He asks her to break up the act and let Louise have a normal life, and she reluctantly accepts, agreeing to marry the day after their show closes. On the last day of the booking, the star stripper in the burlesque show is arrested for solicitation. Desperate, Rose cannot resist the urge to give Louise another nudge toward stardom, and she volunteers Louise to do the strip tease as a last-minute replacement. Disgusted at Rose's blind ambition for her daughter, Herbie walks out on Rose forever ("Small World (Reprise)"). Although reluctant, Louise wants to please her mother and she goes on, assured by Rose that she needn't actually strip, but simply walk elegantly and tease by dropping a single shoulder strap. Shy and hesitant, she sings a titillating version of the old kiddie act song, "May We Entertain You?". She removes only her glove, but she speaks directly to her 'audience', which becomes her "gimmick" ("Let Me Entertain You (Gypsy Strip Tease) Lyrics").

In the months that follow Louise becomes secure, always following her mother's advice to "Make 'em beg for more, and then don't give it to them!" The song becomes brasher and brassier, and more and more articles of clothing come off. Ultimately, Louise becomes a major burlesque star and does not need her mother any longer. After a bitter argument between Rose and Louise, who has become the sophisticated "Gypsy Rose Lee," Rose realizes Herbie and June are both gone, and now Louise is lost to her as well. Rose, feeling sad, useless and bitter, asks "Why did I do it? What did it get me?" ("Rose's Turn Lyrics"). All of Rose's unrequited dreams of her own stardom and her personal demons surface. She fantasizes about her own lit-up runway and cheering audience, but finally admits "I did it for me." After her admission to Louise, mother and daughter tentatively step toward reconciliation in the end.

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