GYPSY figures in some theatre fans' lists as the greatest Broadway musical of them all. Wherever it stands in your personal list, it emerges in all its glory in LTC'S loving, sumptuous production.

Anyone unfamiliar with Gypsy should grab the chance to catch it at the Palace Theatre. Those who already know and love Gypsy will find that Darren Harper's production can hold its own alongside the recent Chichester production with Imelda Staunton, not to mention the 1962 Hollywood film.

The show is based on the early career of legendary stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. But it pivots around another character, her magnificently appalling mother, Madame Rose, a role described as "the ultimate showbiz depiction of the ultimate showbiz mom".

Rose's own failed dreams of vaudeville glory have been transferred to he daughter June, whom she is determined to make a star. They trawl around God's Country performing in theatres across the nation, with June's meek sister Louise in tow.

When June cuts loose from her domineering mom, Rose transfers her dreams to Louise, and in the second act we observe Louise emerge from her chrysalis to become a famous and glamorous superstar – a star who no longer needs her mother.

Jule Styne's score (with lyrics by Stephen Sondheim before he became a composer-writer in his own right) contains some of the great Broadway standards, including Let Me Entertain You, Together, and Everything's Coming Up Roses. These emerge against a depiction of Depression-era American theatres struggling for survival against a crumbling economy and the onset of Hollywood. Gypsy offers a rich slice of social history as well as a fab entertainment.

Stephanie Wilson, makes – as usual - a sensational fist of her plum part, as Madame Rose. Being sensational, though, is second nature to LTC 's No1 old stager. The revelation comes from Alice Fillary [CORR] as Louise. Her journey from browbeaten mouse to international sensation is at every stage an acting tour-de-force, and her explosive emergence in the raunchy reprise of Let Me Entertain You is something to light up everyone's week.

Despite the power of these performances, Gypsy is very nearly stolen by the hilarious triple act of Laura Harper, Lianne Larthe and Sarah Pettican as a trio of seedy but rumbustious strippers who teach Louise the ropes. Ian Benson is moving and convincing as Herbie, Rose's manipulated dogsbody who loves her deeply down the years, and keeps the act afloat. Chris Higginson comes across with vibrancy and impressive technique as the ambitious song-and-dance man who steals June away.

The delights of Gypsy are bolstered further by the performances of a bevy of stage-school children, playing the young June and Louise, plus chorus. Add to this a packed house at the Palace, and the emergence of a real star discovery (this is Alice Fillary's first appearance with LTC) and you know that musical theatre locally has a strong future, as well as a great present.


Palace Theatre, Westcliff

Nightly at 7.30pm, until Sat Nov 11, mat Sat 2.30pm

Box office: 01702 351135