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Phil Willmott

Isn't it Nice when Actors are as Good as you Remember?

Browsing Facebook the other day I came across a clip of Tyne Daly as Momma Rose in <strong /><em>GYPSY, the first production I ever saw on Broadway, on my first trip to New York.

I remember that just to be in NYC was thrilling enough. Moving from Bristol to London and studying to be an actor had been a step into the unknown that no one from my school had ever taken before, and now, course completed I was seeing a show on Broadway, a trip paid for from wages I'd earnt as an actor on TV... well, it was all pretty mind blowing.

And this included my first encounter with the show GYPSY.

It's a classic musical that contains one of the greatest roles for a woman in any genre, Rose, the mother of the stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. In depression era America she is determined that her young daughter will become a Vaudeville star. Through grit, determination and pig headedness she eventually succeeds but not in the way she expects.

In a seminal moment she sings an extraordinary monologue, Roses Turn, unleashing all her frustrations about the stardom that she missed out on through pouring all her energies into promoting her daughter. To watch the dowdy matriarch imagining herself centre stage and in the spotlight is both thrilling and disturbing. With the right performer you can really feel Rose's mind unravelling.

Up to now I've never been sure if Tyne Daly, a big TV star at the time from cop show CAGNEY & LACEY, can actually have been as good as I remember. She's never particularly celebrated as one of the great exponents of the role, alongside Ethel Merman, Patti Lupone and recently Imelda Staunton in the West End.

You can check out Staunton's fabulous performance as a film of this London revival is readily available via streaming services. You can also find screen versions starring Rosalind Russell and Bette Midler but up to now I hadn't thought any footage of Daly as Rose existed.

But it turns out we have the following, tantalisingly brief, clip of her singing a few extracts from Roses Turn.

Finally I have proof that she was as captivating as I remember, prowling the stage like a caged tiger, belting out those bitter sweet lyrics as if sparks were flying out of her ears, a force of nature. If only we had more.