Double Olivier Award Winner Leads the Cast in Gypsy: A Musical Fable

Following the success of last year’s stunning production of A Little Night Music, Buxton International Festival and Buxton Opera House are joining forces again to bring you Gypsy: A Musical Fable, with musical theatre star Joanna Riding as Madame Rose.

Buxton Opera House and Buxton International Festival are delighted to announce that TV, film and theatre star Joanna Riding will take on the role of Madame Rose in this summer’s blockbuster production of Gypsy: A Musical Fable. Best known for her work in musical theatre, Joanna’s credits include: FolliesBilly ElliotMy Fair LadyCarouselGuys and Dolls and A Little Night Music. She is a familiar face on television, having appeared in Holby CityMidsommer MurdersCasualtyThe Royal and Heartbeat, and in 2014 played Cinderella’s mother in the film adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s Into The Woods.

Buxton Opera House CEO Paul Kerryson said ‘We are so thrilled to be able to cast such an accomplished performer in one of the most iconic roles ever written for musical theatre. I am looking forward to bringing this new production of Gypsy to the stage of the stunning Buxton Opera House which will open the 2022 Buxton International Festival.’

With music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and book by Arthur Laurents, the classic musical tells the story of sisters Louise and June and their formidable mother Rose. Based on the autobiography of burlesque dancer Gypsy Rose Lee, the show displays the highs and lows, glamour and hardships of Rose’s efforts to see her daughters’ names in lights – and the disastrous effect it has on her relationships with the people she loves.

Rose sees June’s talents as an opportunity for her and her girls to escape a monotonous life, and pushes June and the shy, less-talented Louise into every available spotlight. Stifled by their mother’s ambitions, Louise and June both long for a different life; June wants to attend drama school, and Louise wishes for an ordinary home. However, Louise eventually finds her niche within the very showbusiness world she originally sought to escape, with her success as a burlesque dancer eventually eclipsing her need for her mother’s double-edged encouragement.

While Louise, as Gypsy Rose Lee, is the title character, it is perhaps inevitable that her mother steals the show. From the victorious ‘Everything’s Coming Up Roses’ to the heart-breaking ‘Rose’s Turn’, she exemplifies the contrasts at the heart of the musical. The more ruthless side of her character is countered by her overwhelming drive on behalf of her daughters, and the genuine love she has for them. Rose’s ambition represents not only a struggle for fame and fortune, but a determination to give her daughters the recognition and opportunities that she feels she herself lacked. However, this determination mixes with her own yearning for stardom and her vicarious search for bright lights through June’s talent and Louise’s eventual fame.

With its combination of reluctant child performers, complicated family relationships and power imbalances, Gypsy tells a compelling and emotional story with darker themes lifted by Sondheim’s witty lyrics. Featuring classic numbers ‘If Momma Was Married’, ‘You Gotta Get a Gimmick’ and ‘Some People’, the hallmark American musical remains relevant today.

The tagline describes Gypsy as a fable – a story with a message – and while there are many lessons to learn about possessiveness, projection and the darker side of fame it is perhaps Rose’s assertion that ‘everybody needs something impossible to hope for’ that exemplifies the central theme of the musical. Gypsy is about dreaming – Rose’s constant refrain is that ‘I had a dream’ – and the story is ultimately about the lengths each of the characters will go to in order to achieve those dreams. Through bright lights and squalor, with every flop and ovation, from homemade costumes to sable furs, it is Rose’s relentless optimism that sees the characters through their struggles. The American Dream ideals of a rags-to-riches story resonate through the years, showing what can be possible with a refusal to give up or back down. We invite you to join us in Buxton this summer, for a show filled with triumph, emotion and the uncertain rewards of fame.


Gypsy: A Musical Fable will be directed by Paul Kerryson and conducted by Ben Atkinson, starring Joanna Riding as Rose. Booking is now open for performances from the 7th to the 24th July.