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FLASH SPECIAL: PRIVATE LIVES Sweeps Into Cinemas With Sophisticated Wit

Today we are showcasing this week's Fathom movie theater presentation of one of the most celebrated comedies of the 21st century as recently captured live onstage in London's West End, Noel Coward's PRIVATE LIVES, starring Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens.

FLASH SPECIAL: PRIVATE LIVES Sweeps Into Cinemas With Sophisticated WitSollocks

The stars aligned in an especially graceful and garrulous manner, with highbrow hilarity heretofore unmatched, when iconic playwright, actor and social figure Noel Coward set out to write PRIVATE LIVES. Premiering in 1930, the comedy in three acts provided a spectacular showpiece for the actor/writer/director Coward himself, as well as afforded co-star Gertrude Lawrence with an indelibly chic tailor-made star-turn - and, that's without even mentioning a young Laurence Olivier as Victor! A tale of two divorce-ravaged lovers happening upon one another at the same seaside resort while on their respective honeymoons to fresh, new spouses - in Amanda's case, Victor; in Elyot's case, Sybil - is in its mere description a conceit for comedy heaven. And, so it is.

Offering two terrifically written and tautly developed lead roles, any particular production of PRIVATE LIVES is wholly dependent upon the dynamic established and explored by its Elyot and Amanda. Subsequent to the quintessential Coward and Lawrence, other essayers of the dueling divorcees who manage to fall back in love over the course of the show (and back out; and, back in again) include, respectively: Donald Cook and Tallulah Bankhead, Edward de Souza and RoseMary Martin, Brian Bedford and Tammy Grimes, Robert Stephens and Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan, Jasper Britton and Claire Price, Matthew Macfadyen and Kim Cattrall, and many more (Elaine Stritch, too).

Most notably, legendary stage and screen star Richard Burton teamed up with a post-divorce Elizabeth Taylor for a 1983 Broadway production - which was a sell-out smash, despite unfavorable reviews - whose history was recently re-enacted quite enjoyably in the BBC TV film BURTON & TAYLOR, starring Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter.

FLASH SPECIAL: PRIVATE LIVES Sweeps Into Cinemas With Sophisticated WitOf course, the pairing of Anna Chancellor and Toby Stephens provides a rare chance for a whole new audience to enjoy their richly realized performances and sample their luminescent rapport as up-close and personal as humanly imaginable. Indeed, speaking of intimacy, Act II is especially a joy in this tightly-paced and grandly acted iteration of the timeless comedy of manners, no doubt almost entirely due to the palpable chemistry present between the two stars and the imaginative and amusing staging conjured up for this dashing West End gem by director Jonathan Kent. A duo worthy of much applause in a layered and ultimately exceptionally memorable evening, with each of the headliners expertly slipping into the perfectly polished spats of Elyot and the stylish high-heels of Amanda, as it were. And, on a special note, the show was filmed at the Gielgud Theatre, with John Gielgud himself having had directed a production of the play once upon a time. As ritzy a resume as the play undoubtedly has, it is vibrantly enacted by the assured and accomplished team in a manner emphatically highlighting the biting, bracing genius of Noel Coward - thereby making this production in particular a pure pleasure, start to finish.

"Strange how potent cheap music is," Amanda viciously laments of the local seaside band's coastal accompaniment in the first act. So, exactly how powerful can great music be, then? Well, we need look no further than Coward's own standard "Someday I'll Find You", which is played to lovely, lilting perfection over the course of PRIVATE LIVES - especially as sweetly enacted here in this sensitive staging. But, in the end, the true music of the entertainment remains firmly with the mellifluous, magical sounds of Coward's unsurpassed way with a word and the manner with which he has wrought his wit - winsomely and winningly. Dear Lord, has there ever been a comedy as effortlessly elegant and endlessly, romantically alluring?

It would seem not, my dear!

More information on Fathom's presentation of Noel Coward's PRIVATE LIVES on December 11 is available at the official site here.

Second Honeymoon

So, now, let's look at some of the highlights of PRIVATE LIVES from its rich, eighty-year history as we anticipate the new live filming coming to cinemas this week courtesy of Fathom.

First up, check out the trailer for Fathom's presentation of Noel Coward's PRIVATE LIVES from London's West End at the Gielgud Theatre following its successful run at the Chichester Theatre Festival.

Next, go back to the very beginning and hear Gertrude Lawrence perform "Someday I'll Find You" from PRIVATE LIVES in the 1930s

Now, view Robert Montgomery and Norma Shearer in the 1931 Hollywood film adaptation of PRIVATE LIVES. Noel Coward's review? "Passable."

Listen to the 1940 radio broadcast edition of PRIVATE LIVES starring Vivien Leigh and Laurence Olivier, recorded live.

Peruse this brief but fascinating look at the beginnings and various incarnations of PRIVATE LIVES over the years.

Sample this scene from the biographical play NOEL AND GERTIE featuring Simon Cadell as Noel Coward and Patricia Hodge as Gertrude Lawrence, introduced by Sir John Mills at the 1990 Royal Variety Performance.

After that, take in this 1976 TV production of PRIVATE LIVES starring Alec McCowen and Penelope Keith.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton reunite for PRIVATE LIVES in 1983, trying out first in Philadelphia before hitting Broadway.

The recent BBC TV film BURTON & TAYLOR chronicles the famed 1983 production of PRIVATE LIVES, backstage and onstage, starring Dominic West and Helena Bonham Carter as the acting icons.

Alan Rickman and Lindsay Duncan shine in a scene from the hit 2001 Broadway revival of PRIVATE LIVES.

Kim Cattrall and Paul Gross recently headlined a Canadian production of PRIVATE LIVES - get a look here.

Lastly, hear Noel Coward and Gertrude Lawrence perform a classic scene from PRIVATE LIVES leading into a rendition of "Someday I'll Find You".

So, what about the sophisticated characters, brilliant bon mots and delectable romance that makes Noel Coward's PRIVATE LIVES a play worth revisting time and time again do you enjoy most of all? Furthermore, what moment do you look forward to experiencing for the first time in this vividly captured new live filming of the West End hit? Or, are you perhaps fresh to the world of PRIVATE LIVES and/or Noel Coward? If the latter is the case, you are in for quite a tasty champagne-tinged treat!

So, until Wednesday... sollocks!

FLASH SPECIAL: PRIVATE LIVES Sweeps Into Cinemas With Sophisticated Wit

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Pat Cerasaro Pat Cerasaro is BroadwayWorld's Chief Interviewer and Senior Editor, contributing exclusive columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Flash Fridays as well as additional special features and extensive news coverage. His work for the site has appeared in The New York Times, US Weekly, The Biography Channel, NBC and more.