THERE’S little question that Mama Rose is the dog’s naughty bits of theatre roles, and for a chance at the part most actors would gladly eat Chappie for a month.

The pivotal character in Gypsy, Mama Rose is the definitive stage mother, the needy-greedy woman who threw her offspring onto the stage regardless of the consequences.

Mama Rose demanded attention, power and glory. She’s King Lear in a set of (fake) pearls.

Since the ground-breaking show, with book by Arthur Laurents, music by Jule Styne, and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, opened at the Broadway Theatre in 1959, Mama Rose has proved to be both horrifying – and mesmerising.

The real Mama Rose of course toured the country with a vaudeville troupe starring her daughters, June (who later became the famous actor June Havoc) and Louise, who became Gypsy Rose Lee.

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Mama Rose was a hustler, a con artist who would steal silverware and blankets from hotels.

She had lesbian lovers. She was said to have murdered lovers.

Now, Shona White is set to step into the fast and loose shoes of the woman who created the template for the archetypal showbiz mother in Scotland’s first production of Gypsy in 20 years.

“Well, we’re not telling the real story of Mama Rose,” says White, smiling.

“This is a musical fable based on the most infamous stage mother and her daughters and what happens to them along their journey.

“And we’re looking at a woman who wanted the best for her girls.”

She continues: “There has to be something endearing about her, or the audience will switch off.

“They need to like her too. We have to see she’s a lioness, that she is ahead of her time in striving for female independence in a time when women didn’t really get to live their dreams.

“And there’s a fragility in there.”

Certainly, Mama Rose has much to feel fragile about.

Her mother walked out on her, so did her first husband and second husband. Then her daughter, June, for whom she has created an act, walks out on her also when she runs away and elopes.

And so, she focuses on the second daughter, Louise. But Mama Rose is now desperate. And when we hear Everything’s Coming Up Roses played out, we know in our hearts that the roses will die almost as soon as they bloom.

The morally corrupt Mama Rose can’t succeed. Her second daughter becomes a success but rejects her mother. Rose’s lies, ambition and manipulation have rendered her toxic. Alone on stage we watch a nervous breakdown set to music.

“It’s an incredible role,” says Shona White. “You just have to look at the actors who’ve played Mama Rose.” She’s right. The likes of Angela Lansbury, Bette Midler and more recently Imelda Staunton have leapt at the chance to create the foxy, flirtatious and often funny Rose Hovick.

Shona White grew up in Fife and dreamed of a life in musical theatre from an early age. She moved to London, studied at the Royal Academy of Music and won the Ronald White Prize for Acting Through Song.

Her West End career has seen White appear in the likes of Chess, the Rocky Horror Show, and Wicked.

But as well has offering up a fantastic voice, allied with an uncanny ability to communicate on stage, White’s commitment to work is incontestable, highlighted by one musical theatre tale. “When I was playing Elphaba in Wicked, the end of the first act is highlighted by Elphaba’s appearance on stage when she comes up through a trap door while singing,” she recalls with a wry smile.

“However, the lift got stuck. And there I was in the basement, and it would not go up. But I could hear the music swell, and I knew I had to begin my song.

“So, as I ran from under the stage, I was miked up and I began to sing, which I continued as I ran up the flights of stairs, round the wings and onto the stage.”

She laughs: “I think it was adrenalin that got me through that one. But that’s the beauty of live theatre. It doesn’t always go to plan.”

White, who will join with Ben Stock to perform songs from musical theatre in The Greatest Musicals of All Time and West End Musical Extravaganza at Pitlochry this summer, is hoping the appearance as Mama Rose will feature less traumatic moments.

“It will be great. And it’s a fantastic musical. I think we all need a bit of joy right now after a challenging few years, so hopefully our version of this classic musical will transport our audiences to a place where they can escape for a few hours.”

She adds: “What I’m looking forward to most about bringing it back to Scotland is the fact it has brought me back to Scotland.

“It is wonderful to be performing so close to home when my career has taken me so far and wide.”

Gypsy, Pitlochry Festival Theatre, May 19-September 30