ANGELA LANSBURY RETURNS TO THE WEST END IN NOËL COWARD’S BLITHE SPIRIT
| By London Theatre Direct
Returning to the London stage for the first time in nearly 40 years the inimitable Angela Lansbury reunites with acclaimed director Michael Blakemore to reprise her Tony award-winning Broadway performance as Madame Arcati in Blithe Spirit.
Opening at the Gielgud Theatre
on 18 March 2014, with previews from 1 March, this new production of Noël Coward’s sharp comedy of social mores will also star Janie Dee, Charles Edwards, Jemima Rooper, Sandra Dickinson, Simon Jones
and Patsy Ferran.
In order to observe a spiritualist first-hand for a planned novel, writer Charles Condomine (Charles Edwards) and wife Ruth (Janie Dee) invite friends the Bradmans (Simon Jones and Sandra Dickinson) to dinner and a séance with local clairvoyant Madame Arcati (Angela Lansbury), whom they are certain is a fake.
That all changes when the ghost of his first wife, Elvira (Jemima Rooper) is summoned - and overstays her welcome in the following days, causing a rift between Charles and his at first disbelieving and then jealous second wife. The feuding wives, ghost and flesh, hatch plot and counter plot to sabotage each other’s and Charles’ existence – but will they succeed?
Angela Lansbury plays Madame Arcati. Her Broadway performance as Coward’s infamous clairvoyant earned her the 2009 Tony Award for Best Supporting Actress, her fifth Tony Award. Her professional career spans more than a half-century, during which she has flourished, first as a star of motion pictures, then as a Broadway musical star and most recently as the star of Murder, She Wrote. The actress made her Broadway debut in 1957 when she starred as Bert Lahr’s wife in the French farce, Hotel Paradiso.
In 1960, she returned to Broadway as Joan Plowright’s mother in the season’s most acclaimed drama, A Taste of Honey, by Shelagh Delaney. One year later, she starred on Broadway in her first musical, Anyone Can Whistle. Lansbury returned to New York in triumph in 1966 as Mame, for which she won the first of her Tony Awards as Best Actress in a Musical. She received the others as the Madwoman of Chaillott in Dear World (1968), as Mama Rose in the 1974 revival of Gypsy and as Mrs Lovett in Sweeney Todd (1979).
From 1984-1996 she starred as Jessica Fletcher, mystery-writing amateur sleuth, in Murder, She Wrote, for which she won four Golden Globe Awards. In 1982, she was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame. Angela and her husband Peter were married in 1949, and worked together until Peter’s death in January 2003. Angela has three grown-up children, Deirdre, Anthony and David, and three grandchildren.
Blithe Spirit sees Angela return to the London stage for the first time in nearly 40 years. Her last London stage performance was playing Gertrude in the National Theatre production of Hamlet in 1975. Prior to that, she starred in the celebrated production of Gypsy at the Piccadilly Theatre and in the RSC production of All Over at The Aldwych.
In November 2013 Angela received an honorary Oscar in recognition of her outstanding 70 years of contribution to the film industry, and has been appointed as a Dame in the 2014 New Year’s Honours list.
Janie Dee plays Charles’ second wife Ruth. Janie is a multi-award winning actress, singer and musical theatre performer. Her work on stage has earned her the Olivier, Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Best Actress Awards for the leading role in Comic Potential in the West End and on Broadway, as well as the Olivier Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for Carousel, directed by Nicholas Hytner at the National Theatre. She has worked extensively with writer and director Alan Ayckbourn, originating the roles of JC 333 in Comic Potential, Joanna in House and Garden and Amanda in Dreams from a Summerhouse, and Peter Hall has directed Janie in Much Ado About Nothing, Betrayal and Design For Living. Lead roles in classic West End musicals include Cats, My One and Only (Olivier Award Nomination) and Mack and Mabel. Audiences outside London have been able to enjoy her performances in many shows including her starring role as Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly! at the Curve Theatre, Leicester, for which she received a TMA UK Theatre Award for Best Performance in a Musical this year. She is a leading light in the resurgent cabaret scene and regularly champions new musical theatre writing. Her screen credits include Me and Orson Welles and Harold Pinter: A Celebration. Janie is expanding her film work, this year completing Wild, directed by Vivienne DeCourcy, Caffiend, opposite Neil Morrissey and written and directed by Sundance Festival Grand Prize-winner, Gary Walkow. Recent dramatic roles include Michael Frayn's Noises Off at The Old Vic and in the West End, and this year she created the role of Miranda in Lucy Kirkwood's NSFW at the Royal Court, which earned her a fourth Olivier nomination.
Charles Edwards plays Charles Condomine, who is married to Ruth, his second wife. This appearance brings Charles back to Blithe Spirit as he made his theatrical debut in the play. Since then his star has continued to rise with numerous roles at the National Theatre including This House, in which he played the persuasive Conservative chief whip Jack Wetherhill and gained a nomination for a Best Actor Evening Standard Award. Other National Theatre performances include Twelfth Night, The Duchess of Malfi, All My Sons and most recently starring in Eugene O’Neill’s Strange Interlude opposite Anne-Marie Duff. His other theatre credits include Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing at The Globe and George VI in The King’s Speech, both of which gained him Evening Standard Award Best Actor nominations, as well as Hannay in The 39 Steps in the West End and on Broadway. On television he is best known as Michael Gregson, a wealthy London publisher and suitor of Lady Edith Crawley in the global hit Downton Abbey.
His many other TV roles include Holy Flying Circus, Murder Rooms opposite the late Ian Richardson, and Monarch of the Glen. Film work embraces Philomena starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, the Hollywood blockbuster Batman Begins, and period features such as Mansfield Park and An Ideal Husband.
Jemima Rooper plays Elvira, Charles’ mischievous first wife. Her talents as an actress span theatre, television and film. Her most recent theatre credits include originating the role of Rachel Crabbe in the National Theatre’s celebrated One Man, Two Guvnors, which she also performed on tour, in the West End and on Broadway, the acclaimed All My Sons alongside David Suchet and Zoë Wanamaker, The Power of Yes and Her Naked Skin at the National Theatre and Me and My Girl at Sheffield Crucible for which she received a UK Theatre Award nomination. She was recently seen on television playing Medusa in the BBC’s Atlantis and her extensive on screen credits also include lead parts in Lost in Austen, Hex, Poirot: The Third Girl, As If and The Railway Children. Her film work includes One Chance alongside James Corden, The F Word and The Black Dahlia.
Sandra Dickinson plays Mrs Bradman. Sandra has had an auspicious career acting on stage and screen for over 35 years. Her theatre credits include A Streetcar Named Desire, Not About Nightingales and Orpheus Descending, in which she has been directed by some of the UK’s most eminent theatre directors. She is also no stranger to farce, having starred in two Ray Cooney productions in the West End as well as productions of Daisy Miller and A Woman of No Importance. Most recently she played Miss Dinsmore/Dora Bailey in the hugely successful Singin’ in the Rain at Chichester Festival Theatre and in the West End. On screen she has appeared in classic TV series including The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Two Point Four Children and The Two Ronnies as well as the thought provoking If The Oil Runs Out for the BBC and in the comedy horror movie Stagknight. Her most recent work has been in New Tricks, The White Van Man, Uncle, a new comedy series for the BBC and the film Tormented. Sandra is also voicing the role of ‘Grandma Tracey’ in Thunderbirds for ITV and voices for the Amazing World Of Gumball.
Simon Jones plays Doctor George Bradman. Simon reprises this role in Blithe Spirit, having also played the part on Broadway alongside Angela Lansbury. His other theatre credits on Broadway include The Real Thing, Benefactors, also directed by Michael Blakemore, Getting Married, Private Lives opposite Joan Collins, School for Scandal, The Herbal Bed, Ring Round the Moon and Waiting in the Wings. On television and radio Simon is best known for playing Arthur Dent in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Lord Brideshead in the popular series Brideshead Revisited. His other extensive television credits include Blackadder, Cambridge Spies, Liberty! The American Revolution, and Rock Follies. Films include Privates on Parade, Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life, The Devil’s Own and Miracle on 34th Street. Simon is also an award-winning narrator of audio books, with more than 65 credits to his name and was co-Artistic Director of TACT, an Off-Broadway production company, for 12 years. Blithe Spirit sees Simon return to the West End for the first time in 35 years.
Patsy Ferran plays Edith, Charles and Ruth Condemine’s maid. Patsy trained at RADA where she has performed in many productions including High Society, In the Summer House, Twelfth Night, The Cherry Orchard and Three Sisters. Blithe Spirit will be her professional stage debut.
Michael Blakemore became the first director to win a Tony Award both for a musica,l Kiss Me, Kate ,and a play, Copenhagen, in the same year, 2000. For Kiss Me, Kate he also won the Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards. Michael was Associate Director at The National Theatre where productions included The National Health, Long Day’s Journey into Night, The Front Page, Macbeth, The Cherry Orchard, Plunder, After the Fall and Copenhagen. Elsewhere: Privates on Parade (RSC); Don’s Party, Widower’s Houses (Royal Court); Make and Break at the Lyric Hammersmith Theatre (where he was Resident Director) and Haymarket; Mr Peter’s Connections by Arthur Miller (Almeida). Other West End successes are A Day in the Death of Joe Egg, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Forget-Me-Not, Design for Living, Knuckle, Separate Tables, All My Sons, Noises Off, Benefactors, Lettice and Lovage, Uncle Vanya, The Sisters Rosenweig, Democracy (West End and Broadway), Embers and Three Sisters. On Broadway, productions include three musicals, the Tony Award-winning City of Angels; The Life, voted best musical of 1997 by the Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Drama League; and Kiss Me, Kate which received 12 Tony nominations. He also directed Death Defying Acts, three one-act plays by David Mamet, Elaine May and Woody Allen, Deuce, Is He Dead? and Blithe Spirit. He has written and directed two films, A Personal History of the Australian Surf (Standard Film Award 1982) and Country Life. His books include a novel, Next Season (1968), still in paperback, and two memoirs, Arguments with England (2004) and recently Stage Blood (Faber & Faber).
Noël Coward has achieved enduring success as a playwright. Many of his plays are firm favourites in the theatre repertoire and include Private Lives, Hay Fever, Design for Living, Present Laughter and Blithe Spirit, which remains one of his most popular comedies. His screenwriting credits include In Which We Serve (which he also co-directed) and Brief Encounter.
Blithe Spirit is produced in the West End by Lee Dean, Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, John Frost, Steve Traxler, Will Trice and Charles Diamond.
Previews from 1 March 2014
Press Night: 18 March 2014
Director Michael Blakemore
Designer Simon Higlett
Lighting Designer Mark Jonathan
Sound Design Ben and Max Ringham
Casting Director Gabrielle Dawes CDG