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Rose: how sympathetic should she be? 
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Off-Broadway Lead
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Post Rose: how sympathetic should she be?
There's probably no definitive answer, but what do people think?

It took me a while to warm to this show because at first I didn't really care about the main character (Ethel Merman's version, OBCR). I personally think the show works better if we empathise greatly with Rose, her desperation and lost dreams, her doomed attempts to 'help' her daughters in the only way that she understands. But the show could instead (or also) be the study of a 'monster', our sympathies lying with the people she manipulates and uses - Herbie, June, Louise, Tulsa. Or maybe this tension and confusion is exactly the point of the show.

What do you think the audience is meant to think of Rose? Which performers have brought out the sympathetic and/or unsympathetic aspects of Rose, to good or bad effect?


Fri Oct 24, 2008 4:16 pm
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Tony Winner
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Gypsy shouldn't be a pathological study of abusive parents. It's not a "Mommie Dearest" story.

Rose needs to have enough charm for the audience to be interested in her. She's not creepy, she sees herself as a good person who is doing everything she can to help her kids, for most of the show. Rose has to have vulnerability. She is abusive, yes, but there are reasons why she is the way she is. The audience needs to feel for her. She can't be an annoying stage mom.




I thought Ethel Merman and Patti LuPone sounded like they did an excellent job of making Rose larger than life. Granted, I'm judging from the recording and various bootleg performances....

Merman's "Rose's Turn" gets me each time. That last "FOR ME!" is so gripping...the first time I heard it I was in a state of awe for a couple of hours. The woman is a force of nature.
Patti's version was also highly impressive.


I watched videos of Angela Lansbury and listened to her on the recording. I don't think she made Rose likeable in the least. She is just too refined a person, and it showed through in her characterization. I didn't believe for a second that her Rose was a failure. She didn't seem to get the essence of what Rose is really about.


I don't think Roz Russell did a great job of making Rose sympathetic, either. To me, she was an annoying stage mom. By the time she was ready to do Rose's Turn, I lost interest in her character.


As for Bernadette, she doesn't really embody my idea of Rose but she did interesting things with it. I had a little bit of trouble believing that she was a failure but she emphasized a fragility that worked really well for the character, IMO.

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Sun Nov 09, 2008 3:27 pm
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Young Hoofer
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She can't be played for sympathy, in my opinion. The point of the show is to slowly see her iron facade crumble as she sees her life slipping away from her as a result of being abandoned by her children - culminating in her complete emotional breakdown in "Rose's Turn."

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Sun Nov 30, 2008 11:38 pm
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I agree that she shouldn't be very sympathetic. I've always seen her as extremely manipulative, albeit a great character to play, who manipulates people to get what she wants. I don't think it's really until Rose's Turn that we really start to feel sympathy for her and see her side of the story


Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:34 pm
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Rose? Sympathetic? HA! She's anything BUT sympathetic. She's self-centered and self-absorbed.

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Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:40 pm
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I believe that Rose is almost, if not, a psychopath.

Looking at a set of symptoms

*Grandiose sense of self-worth - I think this is pretty obvious, the Uncle Jocko scene,
*Superficial charm - Rose charms (or attempts to charm) others, Herbie, Mr Goldstone etc..but before charming she makes sure they are useful to her (Mr Goldstone, Herbie - are you an agent?)
*Criminal versatility - Well she does steal, but I'm not sure if this extends to other crimes? In the film version she does commit insurance fraud though, heh.
*Impulsive - "I had a dream"
*Inability to tolerate boredom - "SOME PEOPLE AINT ME", Final scene "LET ME DO SOMETHING GOD DAMMIT",
*Pathological lying - She ALWAYS lies, and the scene with Louise/June when June explains the lie about the nuns going blind, and that she actually believes it, really does it for me. (I have had encounters with a psychopath, and honestly it's CRAZY how they appeared to genuinely believe the **** that came out of their mouth, it is so perplexing)
*Deceitful/manipulativeness - (Manipulating Louise to strip)
*Promiscuous sexual behavior, sexually deviant lifestyle - multiple husbands
*Poor judgment, failure to learn from experience - I HAD A DREAM..A NEW ACT (Everything's coming up Roses, Seriously I can feel the absolute dread when Louise/Herbie seem so happy, and suddenly this bitch just cannot learn and move on)
* Pathological narcissism - besides many above that fit, she asked June/Louise if they were "Happy" which could be narcissistic - she wants to feel appreciated. (Obviously this alone isn't enough, but with other things too etc..)

In Everything's coming up Roses, when the boys announce their departure she no longer has a need for them and severs all ties, wanting to cause harm by making them take a bus instead of a train.

After June leaves, she no longer has a need for her and severs all ties -in the final scene she still doesn't want Louise to 'mention that name'. If she really love June, I thought she would eventually get over it.

Louise is blind to this manipulation though at the beginning, which gradually changes through her transition. June of course is aware of it much sooner.

The only things I see that kind of contradict this is Herbie's departure and her response, did she really care about him? True psychopaths don't really love people, so I think if she were psychopathic the response would be grief of desertion etc.. rather than actual lost love. But I don't know, similarly the ending could seem like a genuine resolution. I guess Laurents' recent revival might clear both up though (Since Small world reprise was removed and the ending was changed slightly)

Not very coherent, but I don't think she was just a "driven loving mother", there was something very wrong with her. Because the play is a Comedy I think it makes it harder to see what she truly is..

[I've posted this before..but I think this seems appropriate].


Sat Oct 31, 2009 1:44 pm
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