It’s been more than 40 years since Gypsy was last seen on the West End and so Mama Rose, to those of us queuing to buy our tickets for The Savoy in Spring next year, is a role most recently inhabited by the divine Miss Midler in a 1993 TV remake. Naturally, the 1962 original is so old it’s not even on the radar!
Having enjoyed watching Bette eccentrically eye-pop her way through Rose’s Turn, I never imagined that the character could have so much depth ... so much dark depth ... so much dark, scary, all-consuming depth. Even the sharpest of actresses would struggle to pull focus from Lara Pulver but this is definitely Imelda’s turn.
Inspired by Imelda Staunton’s complete reinvention of Mama Rose, here is a list of some of the bravest actors and actresses to ever take on a famous character from cinema and - as Louis Walsh would say - make it their own.
Sheridan Smith as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde
The announcement that Sheridan Smith would be stepping into Reece Witherspoon’s ‘last season Pradas’ raised a few eyebrows. Despite her background on the stage, Sheridan was UK TV’s ‘tart with a heart.’ Some pink designer dresses and an Olivier Award later, Sheridan Smith is now one of the most respected actresses on the London stage. She must be, or they’d never have chosen her to play our Cilla, would they?!
Alan Cumming as Emcee in Cabaret
Broadway legend Joel Gray walked away from Cabaret with a Tony, a Golden Globe and an Oscar when he originated Emcee in Kander and Ebb’s Cabaret. Brave then, of Alan Cumming to take on the role in Sam Mendes’ much darker 1993 revival at the Donmar Warehouse. Cumming’s courage - and razor sharp wit - paid off as audiences still flock to see him in 2014, reprising the role on Broadway where I imagine he keeps his Olivier and his Tony to hand for dressing room selfies.
James Monroe Iglehart as Genie in Aladdin
There are few Disney films more beloved than Aladdin and even fewer characters with more perennial appeal than Genie. The role made iconic by Robin Williams is even more sacred now that the comedy legend has sadly passed away. That hasn’t stopped Memphis funny man James Monroe Iglehart from inhabiting the lamp and bewitching hundreds of voters to bag himself a coveted Tony Award. And there was me thinking that Genie couldn’t make anybody fall in love!
Robert Sean Leonard as Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird
If you don’t know Atticus Finch from reading Harper Lee’s 1960 novel, there’s a good chance you didn’t go to school. Or, more likely, you know him from Gregory Peck’s Oscar winning performance in the 1962 film. Could ‘the other doctor’ from House really do credit to such an iconic screen performance? ‘Yes,’ is the answer the London critics gave when To Kill A Mockingbird opened at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre in May 2013. In fact, they cried ‘yes’ so loudly that he’ll be back to take on Tom Robinson’s case at the Barbican in 2015.