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SPOTLIGHT ON NY POPS: Angela Lansbury Talks Sondheim, GLEE & More

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Legends aren't born, or merely made - they are created; and, so very, very carefully crafted. In equal parts due to her incomparable stage work creating roles in musicals by Stephen Sondheim and Jerry Herman, to her film work encompassing John Frankenheimer and Vincente Minnelli, to name but two, as well as a smash-hit television series - MURDER SHE WROTE - and hosting duties at various Tony Awards and Academy Awards broadcasts over the last half century, have certainly cemented her place in our hearts, minds and entertainment history itself - I am speaking, of course, of the simply exquisite Ms. Angela Lansbury. In this enlightening discussion conducted yesterday we dissect many of her most treasured roles and performances, and Ms. Lansbury provides many warm and wonderful recollections of her astonishingly varied and accomplished tenure onstage and onscreen over the course of her sixty-year-plus career. ANYONE CAN WHISTLE to SWEENEY TODD; MAME to GYPSY; BEDKNOBS AND BROOM STICKS to SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE to the forthcoming MR. POPPER‘S PENGUINS co-starring Jim Carrey - plus, acting with Bette Davis in DEATH ON THE NILE - and much, much more in this special interview! This is all coming in anticipation of Ms. Lansbury's tribute to Bob Hope at the NY Pops gala on May 2, which will also feature performances by Kelli O'Hara and more - whom we continue our SPOTLIGHT ON NY POPS series with later next week. Don't miss them! Further information about the NY POPS event - including tickets - is available here.

That Special Something - For Everyone

PC: Stephen Sondheim told me that you are the prime interpreter of his roles onstage and how much that means to him. What are your feelings about your work with him?

AL: Well, I've worked with Stephen for so many, many years. And, I started my musical career on Broadway with him in ANYONE CAN WHISTLE. So, yes, I am so enormously grateful to Stephen for launching me into the musical theatre - because, he did; he gave me that first opportunity.

PC: Thank goodness he did.

AL: And, then, subsequently, of course, we've worked together many, many times - having done GYPSY in London, originally.

PC: What was that experience like?

AL: It was a huge thrill for me - and, a very daunting experience to me.

PC: Even you? It's certainly understandable, though.

AL: It's because I was a young - I wasn't that young - but, I certainly was not a Broadway singer in the sense that Merman was. And, I did so many other things besides just singing. So, to be able to combine my - how shall we say - my acting chops, with my singing abilities, was an amazing breakthrough for me. GYPSY was the thing that really broke the ice for me, big time.

PC: How interesting to hear you say that.

AL: Of course, prior to that I had done MAME and DEAR WORLD and other musicals, but, anyway, GYPSY was such a great acting role and I think that's what allured me to it. Although, I was very much very afraid of it - because, as I say, people associated Merman so much with the role; including me!

PC: So true.

AL: I used to listen to that recording - that old vinyl recording that first came out - in all, and trembling with excitement because it was so thrilling.

PC: How exciting to hear it thrills you, too.

AL: Yes, so there you are! Stephen and I are really joined at the hip in that respect, with GYPSY.

PC: Would you place GYPSY in the same league as Hedda Gabbler and Lady MacBeth and the great female dramatic roles of all time?

AL: Well, I most certainly would. I might not couple it with those ladies - but, in a sense, yes; you could certainly say so. And, I think that those of us who have essayed this part - and there are many of us, as you know: Patti [LuPone], Bernadette [Peters} and so on - we know that. So, you know, yes: it's a challenging piece to undertake under any circumstances.

PC: And the most beloved of all your Sondheim roles is undoubtedly Mrs. Lovett in SWEENEY TODD. Are you as happy as I am that your performance exists forever on DVD? It's the very best.

AL: And thank God it's on the DVD! (Laughs.) Because, you know, if it wasn't I would never have found the audience that I have over the past years since then - which is almost thirty years since I did it for the video. And, the young people, thank goodness, who see that DVD understand what I am about - otherwise, I don't think they would ever know what Angela Lansbury did onstage. (Pause.) How could they?

PC: They couldn't.

AL: They could only go by the recordings they heard - and that doesn't really tell you anything. You've got to see the performance on the screen or on the stage. And, they were able to see the whole wonderful show - which was so magnificently done on DVD and one of the first really great renditions of a stage production on video, which we shot in Los Angeles when we were at the end of the run of the show here.

PC: What was the filming like?

AL: Well, Stephen was there and he was able to conduct - in a sense - what was going to be on the screen, along with the director, who was Terry Hughes.

PC: I wasn't aware they worked that closely on it together.

AL: Yes. I think that the result was extraordinary - and thank goodness for it, as I say. Otherwise, a whole generation would never have known who the hell Angela Lansbury was!

PC: It's such a perfect production. It doesn't age at all.

AL: It doesn't age - thank goodness - because of the nature of the piece and the era in which it took place. It's a timeless, timeless piece of film.

PC: I agree. I quite like Tim Burton's film and I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts on the film version, as well.

AL: Well, the film version was not the show we did - although, it was very gripping and interesting. I saw it and I was interested by it. There have been many, many different versions of SWEENEY TODD - and, it's interesting to me that Stephen has really gotten behind all of them, you know?

PC: He loves new interpretations of his work.

AL: He's always left the door open for someone to bring a new nuance to the piece - and there's nothing wrong with that! Because it is SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET, it is rather like a children's rhyme.

PC: A round.

AL: Yeah, yeah! You know, it's something that, as a child, we used to run around sort of shouting at each other (Low Growl.) "Sweeney Todd'll get ya if ya don't watch out! Ahhh!" (Laughs.)

PC: That voice is terrifying!

AL: (Laughs.)

PC: Speaking of rounds, bringing your Sondheim roles up to 2010 and 2011: Madame Armfeldt in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC and that glorious speech you gave to Sondheim at the Oliviers.

AL: That was very exciting - that was a thrill! It really, really was.

PC: What was the experience like being onstage with him?

AL: Well, there we were, you know, on the stage of the Theatre Royal Drury Lane - a stage that I had never stepped out on; certainly had never performed on. So, I am just old enough to appreciate it, and, I don't know, I just felt very touched and very moved to be able to do that and to be able to give that award to Stephen in London on that occasion. (Pause.) It was a really lovely, lovely moment for me.

PC: And it loves forever on YouTube!

AL: (Laughs.) Yes! Yes, it's there - and isn't it fine!

PC: And more!

AL: (Laughs.) That's one of those wonderful moments that was captured - which, otherwise, would never have been seen by a massive audience.

PC: Bringing it all the way to today: so many people of my generation only know Bob Hope from the YouTube videos of him - could you tell me about how you became involved with the NY Pops tribute to him coming up on May 2?

AL: Yes, I know that - I realize that. At the event, we are going to show a video of Bob Hope and I performing together on his show - his television show - before he packed it in, you know, and his television show was finished. And, it was the first and only time I ever worked with Bob - because we were acquaintances, but we were not close, close friends; because, after all, he was a different generation from me.

PC: What were your impressions of him?

AL: Oh, I admired him so much as a performer. He was such a rare and unique individual - and, he maintained his reputation through all the many years: throughout his movie career; and, then, his subsequent television career; and, as a man of our business he was just - bar none - the greatest.

PC: High praise, indeed, coming from you.

AL: He was always giving his time and services to people for nothing, as well. You know, when he did his tours and when he went all over the world to entertain troops - to entertain troops of all countries - in the most far-flung and far-out places. He went during wars and not during wars - his work with the USO and so on is extraordinary. I have so much admiration for him. Plus, he was a fellow Brit! (Laughs.)

PC: Of course! Many people don't know that about him, though.

AL: Yes, he came from England and so did I. He came as a young person and came through Ellis Island and his whole background was something that I could relate to.

PC: What was he like in person, one-on-one?

AL: Well, when we finally met it was as if we had known each other all our lives, you know? It was very curious. (Pause.) I will always remember going and having tea with him and his wife and with my husband, Peter, and they served this lovely English tea with cucumber sandwiches and little cakes and lovely, real tea (Laughs.), at his house on the lake.

PC: What a wonderful memory!

AL: I realized then what a dear, dear person he was and how the two of them - he and his wife - had created this life for themselves and their family and what a great career he had had and what a great icon he was in our business.

PC: Where was the number that you performed with Bob filmed?

AL: Actually, it was for his television show that he filmed here in Burbank in the 1990s. I was a guest on his television show. So, we rehearsed this number together. And, it was called "Did you Evah?" (Sings.) "Ba ba ba, ba ba ba, ba ba ba ba-ba ba-ba ba."

PC: "What a fine party it was."

AL: (Sings.) "What a great party it was" - yes, exactly; "Did you Ev-uh!"

PC: How did it go?

AL: Oh, he put his own lyrics to it - or, should I say, we did - and we did our little dance. I think it was quite successful. It was a good number.

PC: Anytime you have the combination of Bob Hope, Angela Lansbury and Cole Porter, it's destined to be awesome.

AL: Yes, exactly! And, I was doing MURDER SHE WROTE at the time, so, you know, everybody knew me as (Announcer Voice.) "Jessica Fletcher" (Laughs.)

PC: Undoubtedly so!

AL: So, I came out in a very glamorous dress and, so, they were a little bit surprised when they saw me in a different mode - I think - because they didn't know I was a musical performer. You know, a lot of the audience had never seen me on Broadway, so, they didn't know that - they just saw me as a movie actress and a sometime television artist.

PC: So many people know you now for the movies you have been in newly coming out on Blu-Ray - THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE just came out and DEATH ON THE NILE comes out soon.

AL: Oh, I hope so - I hope so! One of my favorite films that I ever made was DEATH ON THE NILE

PC: No way! Why is that?

AL: It's because I think it's terribly funny!

PC: Oh, it is!

AL: And, it's wonderfully acted - I think - by a huge gaggle of gorgeous actors and actresses. When you look at the cast on that show, it's mind-boggling, isn't it?

PC: It really is. Maggie Smith...

AL: And, Peter Ustinov - who was married to my sister.

PC: Your brother-in-law!

AL: Yes, my one-time brother-in-law. He was a great, great friend and somebody I looked up to from the time I was a kid - and, he was still a kid, actually! He was only a few years older than me.

PC: And the other cast members.

AL: Oh, David Niven - wonderful, wonderful actor. And, Bette Davis?

PC: Please share with me your thoughts on working with Bette Davis.

AL: Oh. Well, I was, certainly, at her feet - I admired her tremendously. Her last years I kind of got to know her a little bit. So, it was a joy for me to work with her.

PC: SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE directed by Hal Prince was so ahead of its time - it is also one of your best film roles.

AL: Well, it's never been properly maintained as a video - and, I wish it was. There are no good prints of it anymore and that's very sad, because it is an interesting movie.

PC: I won't even tell you how I much I paid for a copy on Ebay.

AL: (Laughs.) I hope it's a good print!

PC: Vincente Minnelli's FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE was finally released on DVD for the first time this week - is it true you do un-credited looping on that for one of the roles?

AL: Yeah, I did her whole voice. I voiced her for that - which, nobody knew until now, I guess.

PC: Wow! Movie history. Angela Lansbury looped the entire role of Marguerite Laurier in FOUR HORSEMEN OF THE APOCALYPSE.

AL: Is that the character's name? I forget. It was long ago!

PC: Yes, it is - and yes, it was! Did you get to work directly with Vincente Minnelli on that?

AL: Well, I didn't, actually - no. I worked in the dark, in a darkroom, with a sound engineer on that. I had to re-voice her entire role because her English at that time wasn't really good enough to be understood by an American audience. I did work with Vincente Minnelli on another film that we worked on in Paris with Rex Harrison.

PC: THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE.

AL: Yes.

PC: What was your experience like working with Minnelli on set?

AL: I have to say that that was a rare and interesting experience. I am just thankful that I did get to work with him and Rex Harrison. Kay Kendall was Rex Harrison's wife at the time - I don't know whether or not you know who she was, but she was one of the most beautiful women you ever saw.

PC: Indeed.

AL: We shot the entire film in Paris - so, Vincente Minnelli was in his element because he loved the Parisian style. This was THE RELUCTANT DEBUTANTE, after all - as it was titled.

PC: What do you think of the film?

AL: It's a lovely film. John Saxon was in it and that cute, little American actress - Sandra Dee.

PC: And written by Julius Epstein of CASABLANCA fame.

AL: Yes, of course. Right. And, also, William Douglas-Home - who is a British writer - had a lot to do with it. He adapted it for the movie. So, anyway, it was lovely to work with Vincente and we had an interesting time. (Pause.) It's a very, very funny film - but very sophisticated, indeed.

PC: Of course Minnelli's FATHER OF THE BRIDE is a perennial favorite for this time of year - starring Elizabeth Taylor.

AL: Yes, of course. I love that.

PC: What are your memories of Elizabeth Taylor? You worked together on THE MIRROR CRACK'D.

AL: Well, we slightly worked together - we really had no scenes together, really. We certainly socialized during that period - Peter, Rock Hudson, Elizabeth and I - we would go to dinner together. You know, we were there for a long time because in those days movies were not something you did swiftly - they all took a great deal of time. (Laughs.)

PC: And it showed, usually!

AL: We were in England a long time for that. I think that movie was a bit of a disappointment for everybody because it was one of those star-studded pieces that nobody was terribly well-cast in, if you know what I mean. (Laughs.)

PC: To be discreet.

AL: Without naming names! Never name names, you know! (Laughs.) I was very disappointed, though, because I really wanted to play Miss Marple as Miss Marple might have been - as a real character. And, I just had a side position in it - I really wasn't the main character, although I had to solve the mystery. Nevertheless - and I'm not being churlish now - but, I really felt that they kind of gave Miss Marple short shrift in that, so to say.

PC: You're barely in it and you're the lead!

AL: That's right! That's right. And, EdWard Fox - who was such a great actor - played my nephew, and he was wonderful. But, all these other shining stars who were dazzling around us took away all of the attention from the real crime.

PC: So, it's not one of your favorite films that you've done?

AL: It was OK. I don't mean to dis it - but, I don't think it's as good as it should have been.

PC: And what about your new film that comes out this summer, MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS? I read in EW that they tailor-made the role to you after you passed on the script a few times.

AL: Well, I just kept saying "No! No! No!" (Laughs.)

PC: What was wrong with the part?

AL: I just felt, you know, "There's no role here - there's no person! There's nobody at home in this lady - I don't know who she is." So, they went to work and they wrote somebody. They wrote a character. So, when they wrote the character, I said, "All right." And, then we did it.

PC: What was the filming experience like?

AL: I was saved by the fact that Ann Roth - the absolute dream costumer, who designs costumes and clothes for stars of some of the great films you are seeing these days - did my clothes.

PC: Wow!

AL: And - and - that saved my bacon! (Laughs.)

PC: How so?

AL: It's because, you know, when you're an actress and you are interested in the role you are playing, you certainly have opinions of how you want to look. So, Ann and I got together and I said, "I think this lady really never left the 1940s - and, she's gonna look like she's still living in the 1940s." Ann just grabbed on to that and said, "Absolutely! I think that's the way to go!" I said, "I also think she's the sort of woman who always wears a hat." You know, ladies in the ‘40s wore a lot of hats! (Laughs.) So, I wear hats all the way through the movie. I have a tiny part - I'm just in and out.

PC: Does anyone still wear a hat? Elaine Stritch and Angela Lansbury!

AL: (Laughs.) Well, probably - yes! I never wear hats, but Elaine does - very successfully! She's great with hats. And, I love hats, too - I'd be good in Britain; I could wear those great, big fancy hats with tulle and roses on them and everything. I love wearing those things, because they are very Victorian looking, you know? But, that's not the way my lady looks in the film; no.

PC: How would you describe your character in the film?

AL: She's quite a frightening character in a sense, really. But, as it turns out, whereas I am not about to give in to the character of Jim Carrey, I do in the end - and we end up great friends, which is wonderful. So, it's a delightful little role - a tiny little role - and it's fun.

PC: Did you sing with him at all on set? He has an excellent voice.

AL: No, we didn't! I didn't even know he could sing.

PC: Did you enjoy acting with fellow Broadway baby Carla Gugino?

AL: Oh, yes, absolutely - yes. We got along like a house on fire because she just had had a great success on Broadway in DESIRE UNDER THE ELMS.

PC: An exquisite performance.

AL: She deserved the Tony for that - definitely.

PC: Speaking of Broadway performers you enjoy, tell me about your NY Pops co-stars Kelli O'Hara and Cheyenne Jackson.

AL: Yes! Well, Kelli, of course, is a dream. A wonderful, wonderful performer and a beautiful singer; and I've loved her in everything she's done. I have to say I've seen her in just about everything she's done.

PC: So many great shows - LIGHT IN THE PIAZZA, especially.

AL: Yes! Yes. I quite liked that.

PC: And Cheyenne Jackson?

AL: Cheyenne Jackson - a beautiful young performer. They are both absolutely wonderful and they are upholding the banners of excellence on the stage on Broadway these days - and I love to go see them.

PC: What have been your other recent favorite performances you have seen? Have you been to New York in the last two or three months?

AL: I actually have not been to New York for the last few months - I'm in Los Angeles right now.

PC: What do you think of recent Best Musical winner BILLY ELLIOT?

AL: Oh, I think BILLY ELLIOT is one of the great musicals of all time.

PC: What high praise!

AL: Oh, yes. I just loved BILLY ELLIOT.

PC: It's one of your personal favorites?

AL: Oh, Lord - yes! I think it was the most uplifting, inspiring - for young people to see it, it's an absolute must!

PC: What is the message you got out of it?

AL: Young people should have a chance! Young men, young boys should be able to see this and understand how music and dance and movement is so important.

PC: It really is.

AL: You know, so many of them have a feeling for it - and, yet, they all end up playing football!

PC: So true.

AL: Well, let me tell you - right now, I have a young grand-nephew and he is a great soccer player, but he loves to dance! When the music starts, he starts dancing. He plays soccer - but, he's still a great dancer!

PC: He does both! Equally well!

AL: Yes! So, see, there you go - you've got to be able to be inspired and you can't be inspired unless you see and have the opportunity to go to the theater and sit in the seats and watch a kid of your age doing what Billy Elliot finally ends up doing; it's pretty exciting and marvelous, you know?

PC: I'm sure Elton John would agree when I say we'd both love to hear you do "Born To Boogie"!

AL: (Big Laugh.) Absolutely!

PC: What other shows have you seen recently you responded to - in any way?

AL: Well, I saw THE BOOK OF MORMON, which I thought was quite funny and very entertaining and fun. Certainly, The Players in that were very, very good. They were all new to me.

PC: Lots of debuts.

AL: Yes, I'd never seen any of them before - but, maybe that's because I didn't catch them in their earlier shows.

PC: And, Nikki M. James? What talent, right?

AL: Right! Right.

PC: What other performances moved you?

AL: One of the last ones I saw was one of the most beautiful English plays...

PC: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST?

AL: THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST was superb. I thought Brian was great in that. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. So, I certainly saw that. I just caught it because they extended the run - I had been here for most of the winter. I stayed out of the cold this year - it didn't stop me from getting bronchitis, but I did my best.

PC: I'm so sorry to hear that.

AL: Thank you, I am much better now. The other play I saw that I really enjoyed was ARCADIA.

PC: What do you think of Raul Esparza?

AL: Oh, Raul! Yes. I am a great fan of his.

PC: Did you see him in John Doyle's COMPANY?

AL: Oh, certainly. Yes. Absolutely. I think his talent is so enormous and far-reaching. And, I think he has a great career and will continue to have a great career. He is a very, very, very, very talented and terrific performer.

PC: He is moving into films and television more and more, too.

AL: I hope he will because, you know, you need to do that - you need to do film and you even need to do some television. I hate to say that, but it's the truth now. It's important that - as much as I adore the theatre - I know that, financially, one must try to reach over into film and television.

PC: Film makes you famous; television makes you rich; theatre makes you good.

AL: (Laughs.) There you go! Right on.

PC: You agree, then?

AL: Yes, oh yes! (Laughs.)

PC: Could you define collaboration in the sense of it being the basis of theatre?

AL: Well, the collaboration really begins once the rehearsal starts. This is when the actor takes his place, because he becomes the one who is going to bring the words of the author off the page. Now, how that is achieved is done with the cooperation of the director. The goal is that each one of those components will work together to produce a result which is, hopefully, going to be what the writer - because he is the originator - has in mind. And, therefore, that collaboration between those three people is vitally important. There must be a conversation; there must be a dialogue - before you begin - so that you set down the ground rules. Not so much the ground rules, but you have a conversation in which you create an atmosphere in which really great work can happen and a great performance can take place. You have to have that kind of cooperation between the three of you. Now, the author isn't always there - but, the director and the actor always are. So, their collaboration is of vital importance - and, also, along with the collaboration with the other actors involved. And, whether you are playing a big part or a tiny part, whatever it is, you are always working with the group and bearing that in mind. It's very comforting, because you are not out there on your own - you have got a lot of cooperation. But, you know, it takes people - young performers - a long time to learn that, I think.

PC: What a fabulously beautiful answer. It brought to my mind the image of you, Sondheim, Arthur Laurents and Herbert Ross working on ANYONE CAN WHISTLE together.

AL: (Big Laugh.) Well, you know about that one! (Laughs.)

PC: We saw how that collaboration tuned out.

AL: Yeah, we did! (Laughs.)

PC: It's such a great score and a fascinating piece of theatre. Did you see it with Donna Murphy, Raul Esparza and Sutton Foster at Encores! recently?

AL: I certainly did - and what a great performance it was of the show! I was just blown away! So excited by it; I really was. I have to say that I was really responsible for forcing - not that I had to force, but they did what I suggested - I whispered to Stephen, (Whispers.) "You've got to get them to use Donna Murphy because she is gonna be great!" I had seen her in something that was akin to ANYONE CAN WHISTLE.

PC: What was it like seeing the show for maybe the first time while not in the cast?

AL: When I saw it - and, I saw it the night I left to go to Los Angeles - I was just thrilled! So excited. I remember every word of that show - not just my words, but everybody else's as well.

PC: What a magnificent score.

AL: (Sings.) "Everybody says don't, everybody says don't, everybody says don't!"

PC: And the big crescendo "Miracles - if you do them!" Wow. Pure chills; that moment.

AL: Yes! Well, that's the thrill of being a performer, you know?

PC: My favorite is still "A Parade In Town".

AL: Yeah?

PC: You got that written for you out of town, right?

AL: Yep! And, it's a good one!

PC: Is it true Jerry Herman is writing you and Carol Channing ARSENIC & OLD LACE: The Musical?

AL: I have never heard that. (Laughs.) Are you kidding me?

PC: He's spoken about possibly considering it in interviews.

AL: Oh, well, listen - we all have ideas! Jerry is such a doll, bless his heart. I'm not going to refute that he said that, for he very well may have - but, no, that is not on the agenda at the moment. But, I guess, you never know!

PC: What's next for you besides the NY Pops and MR. POPPER'S PENGUINS? A Broadway show?

AL: Well, there's the possibility for a play in New York at the early, early part of next year. We would rehearse in January. But, it's very uncertain at this point.

PC: Will you be reprising Madame Armfeldt in the West End at any point?

AL: No. I won't. You see, they've already done it at the Donmar and our production was really a repeat of the work that Trevor Nunn did in London. He brought that production to New York and that's really the same production that Catherine [Zeta-Jones] and I did on Broadway. So, you know, it's already been done in London so there's not really a chance I would do it there.

PC: Did you get to see Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch in the show after you and Catherine finished your runs?

AL: Yes, I did.

PC: I was curious what you thought of their portrayals of the roles - especially considering it's the same production.

AL: Certainly. Oh, yes. We all bring our own menu to the table, as it were, and I love everything that Elaine does. I think she is a funny, chronically original performer, you know? A really, really, really original performer. I was so interested in everything she did. Bernadette; the same. They brought different qualities and quantities to the piece - and, it was a little different from ours. Nevertheless, it's such a good show and so well-constructed and funny - and delightful in every respect. I am always just entertained by theatre and I don't make comparisons. How can I? Why should I? You know?

PC: You can't. Will you ever host the Tony Awards again? You and Julie Andrews were the best hosts of the great telecast years.

AL: Uh, no, I don't think so - I wouldn't imagine that; no. Those were the great years when we did it, though.

PC: You can say that again.

PC: Alex Cohen produced the kind of a show that was like a whole show onto itself, you know? The Tony Award show was just incredible! But, now, it's a much better mix of music and drama and not just musical only - which is just about what we did in those days.

PC: You winning the award at the 2009 telecast for BLITHE SPIRIT and all of Radio City stood for you - one of the great Tony recipient memories of all time.

AL: Oh, that was thrilling. That was really one of those moments in your professional life that you never forget. It was lovely - just lovely.

PC: What do you think of your fellow InDepth InterView participant Julie Andrews?

AL: Oh, I think Julie has had a fantastic career - and, bless her heart, she's still going strong. She's still maintained her poise, her beauty - she's never changed. She's a terrific woman. I admire her very much. We love each other dearly and we see each other from time to time socially and that's just great. And, I hope that she has great continued success with her books and, of course, she is going to be awarded at the Geffen Theater next week - they are honoring her with a Lifetime Achievement award on that occasion - and I should have been able to be there, but I couldn't because of coming back to New York to do the New York Pops tribute to Bob Hope at Carnegie Hall on May 2.

PC: Will you be making any other appearances coming up?

AL: Yes, I am also going to England on the 5th of May for an event honoring my grandfather, George Lansbury, who was a great politician in Britain - the leader of the Labor Party.

PC: Of course. How wonderful!

AL: Yes, I am going with my brother and his wife. So, I couldn't be with Julie on that occasion, but I would love to have been.

PC: So fans of you both will never have to choose between BEDKNOBS & BROOMSTICKS and MARY POPPINS since you're friends.

AL: (Laughs.) I agree - she and I both have our favorite movies of that genre. Hers was MARY POPPINS and mine was certainly BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS. You know, I found an enormous audience with that movie and I still do to this day. It's so entertaining for kids - and, it keeps them quiet. They'll not only watch it once, they'll watch it three times in a day! So, you can be sure that if you have a copy of BEDKNOBS AND BROOMSTICKS, your kids will be happy for several hours! (Laughs.)

PC: Also, I have to ask: do you watch GLEE?

AL: Sometimes. Yes.

PC: What do you think of it?

AL: Well, I... (Laughs.) I don't always; I can't always keep up with the trends that are going on there. But, I haven't seen enough of them, honestly, to really give you a good description of how I feel about GLEE. But, I am aware that it is enormously successful and that people love it and watch it with great interest, so all the best to everybody connected with it.

PC: I cannot thank you enough, Ms. Lansbury! You are the very, very best in the business and on Broadway.

AL: Oh, it was absolutely wonderful, Pat! I'm so glad I got to talk to you. Bye now!

Photo Credit: Walter McBride/WM Photos

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From This Author Pat Cerasaro

Pat Cerasaro contributes exclusive scholarly columns including InDepth InterViews, Sound Off, Theatrical Throwback Thursdays, Flash Friday and Flash Special as well as additional special features, (read more...)

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