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Step aside, mama! Finally, it's Gypsy's turn!

June 15, 2008 |  7:08 pm

Laura Benanti broke the Tony Awards losing streak of women to play the title role in "Gypsy." Four times the actress who must go from ugly duckling to a swan who sheds her feather boa over the course of two and a half hours has competed for the Tony Award for featured actress in a musical only to lose. They were: Sandra Church (1960); Zan Charisse (1975); Crista Moore (1990); and Tammy Blanchard (2003).


However, just as Gypsy gets upstaged in "Gypsy" by her stage-mad mama, the same has happened to a few of the actresses who portrayed her. Two Mama Roses have won best lead actress: Angela Lansbury (1975) and Tyne Daly (1990). Two lost: the role's originator Ethel Merman (1960) and Bernadette Peters (2003).

Perhaps the fact that this was the third nod for Benanti was the charm she needed to win. And charming she was in her acceptance speech on the stage of Radio City Music Hall as well as in the press room atop 30 Rock. "My favorite part of the show to perform each night is the scene where I get to scream at Patti," she said with a wide smile, explaining, "It is just the two of us and it shape shifts every night."

The actress, who made her Broadway debut at 19 as Maria in "The Sound of Music," (the show that bested "Gypsy" at the 1960 Tony Awards) picked up nods for her second ("Swing") and third ("Into the Woods") shows on Broadway. That latter tuner was the work of Stephen Sondheim who wrote the lyrics for "Gypsy." And he is picking up a lifetime achievement Tony Award tonight.

(L.A. Times photo by Tom O'Neil)