How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"

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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"#1
Posted: 1/4/20 at 4:25pm

I know that Jerry Herman was determined to have her and even coached her in some songs before the audition, but does anyone know why he was so strongly in her corner? Was it the result of seeing her in "Anyone Can Whistle"?

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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"#2
Posted: 1/4/20 at 4:44pm

According to Angela herself, Jerry Herman saw her in Anyone Can Whistle and that convinced him she was right for the role.

 

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=thVCuucg_Cw

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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"#3
Posted: 1/4/20 at 7:17pm

He'd make sarcastic comments about how he loved her but hated the show. Another reason I think his La Cage Emmy win speech about "the hummable show tune" was an attack on Sondheim. 

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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"#4
Posted: 1/5/20 at 12:28am

I saw those Tony Awards and I think "attack" is a bit strong. Herman's remark was more defensive than aggressive, as I heard it. Yeah, I was offended on Sondheim's behalf, but looking back it seems rather silly of me.

Herman told a mutual friend many times that he wrote MAME for Judy Garland, but she was uninsurable. That he "discovered" Angela in WHISTLE makes sense. She wasn't yet a star of Garland's wattage, but after HELLO, DOLLY!, Herman himself was the only "star" required in his next show. (And of course the property itself was well-known from the novel, play and film of AUNTIE MAME, perhaps even better known than THE MATCHMAKER.)

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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"#5
Posted: 1/5/20 at 3:06am
Wasn’t it a common criticism of Sondheim’s music? He poked fun at the critique himself in Merrily We Roll Along. I’m honestly not sure how I would have voted having to pick between La Cage Aux Folles and Sunday in the Park With George.
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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"#6
Posted: 1/5/20 at 4:47am

GavestonPS said: "I saw thoseTony Awards and I think "attack" is a bit strong. Herman's remark was more defensive than aggressive, as I heard it. Yeah, I was offended on Sondheim's behalf, but looking back it seems rather silly of me.

Herman told a mutual friend many times that he wrote MAME for Judy Garland, but she was uninsurable. That he "discovered"Angela in WHISTLEmakes sense. She wasn't yet a star of Garland's wattage, but after HELLO, DOLLY!, Herman himself was the only "star" required in his next show. (And of course the property itself was well-known from the novel, play and film of AUNTIE MAME, perhaps even better known than THE MATCHMAKER.)
"

Are you sure about this as regards Garland? I know she really wanted to do Hello, Dolly! after seeing it (no idea if Channing was still in the show or had already been replaced) and he really wanted her to do it, and ALL Garland's people warned him not to hire her because they knew the problems she was having, but I never heard of her in relation to Mame.

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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"#7
Posted: 1/5/20 at 4:34pm

I believe that Garland was up for/tried to get :"Mame" as a replacement for Lansbury.  Didn't know she was considered for the original cast.  In "Me and My Shadows,:" she is on the phone combating the belief that she couldn't do a full week's worth of performances, saying "We did seven shows a DAY in vaudeville."  The timing of that scene would have been right for "Mame."

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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"#8
Posted: 1/5/20 at 4:42pm

Judy in Dolly- Judy in Mame- so many possibilities- and such a tragic end for a great star.

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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"#9
Posted: 1/6/20 at 12:56am
Of course Jerry Herman’s comment about “hummable tunes” at the 1984 Tony Awards was a direct, unsubtle jab at Sondheim and, in particular, at “Sunday in the Park with George,” the main Tony competition that year for “La Cage aux folles.” Herman’s show may have bested Sondheim’s at the awards ceremony, but “Sunday” had been the clear preference of the “important crowd,” prime among them The New York Times, whose relentless promotion of the show toward a Pulitzer Prize, which it did receive (despite Frank Rich’s not-quite-rave review), led to the sarcastic labeling of the campaign as “Sunday In the Times with George.”

One senses that Mr. Rich’s review, if written today, would be stronger, and that at least several of the Tony decisions, if arrived at 35 years later, would be reversed.
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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"#10
Posted: 1/6/20 at 4:06pm

As I recall, Herman would have loved to have Garland for the role, but I don't think he ever seriously thought it was possible, based on her reputation at that point.  He definitely wanted Lansbury, but the rest of the production team weren't convinced and she auditioned repeatedly, flying round-trip from L.A., with no decision made.  At the final audition she'd had it and demanded a decision, saying she wouldn't be coming back.  She got the part.

As for Herman's 1984 Tony speech, I never took that as hostile to Sondheim.  Herman's musicals prior to La Cage were seen as passe by then and everything he did after Mame was relatively unsuccessful, so I think there was some defensiveness there.  And Sunday was hardly a critic's darling that season, though I don't recall anyone criticizing the score.  All through his 1970's success streak, Sondheim was dogged by the contention from some that his music was not hummable or memorable or that it was too complex.

I always thought it was a bit ridiculous that the idea one had to choose between Sondheim- type shows or Herman-type shows was actually a dynamic in those years.  They're both great composers and their work has stood the test of time.  There are pleasures galore in every one of their scores, as far as I'm concerned.

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How Angela Lansbury got "Mame"#11
Posted: 1/6/20 at 4:22pm

At the beginning, which other ladies were in the running for the lead role in "Mame"?

"Noel [Coward] and I were in Paris once. Adjoining rooms, of course. One night, I felt mischievous, so I knocked on Noel's door, and he asked, 'Who is it?' I lowered my voice and said 'Hotel detective. Have you got a gentleman in your room?' He answered, 'Just a minute, I'll ask him.'" (Beatrice Lillie)
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How Angela Lansbury got #12
Posted: 1/6/20 at 4:26pm

I've read that Nanette Fabray and Delores Gray were the frontrunners for MAME before Lansbury emerged. Mary Martin was the first person considered for the role but she turned it down (to the surprise of the creatives).

“I knew who I was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then.”
Updated On: 1/6/20 at 04:26 PM
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How Angela Lansbury got #13
Posted: 1/6/20 at 4:56pm
I know Nanette Fabray was Gower Champion's choice for Dolly. Hadn't heard of her involvement in Mame. I've read that Rosalind Russell was approached/considered for the part.
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How Angela Lansbury got #14
Posted: 1/6/20 at 5:02pm

I think Rosalind Russell was approached for the musical very early on in development (before any of the music was even written) and declined.  By most accounts, Jerry Herman wrote the score to MAME with Mary Martin in mind and was shocked when she turned it down.  He described this (in a book) as being a similar scenario in which he wrote DOLLY with Merman's voice in mind for the score only to be shocked when she wouldn't even listen to it (by 1964 Merman was apparently wanting to take a break from Broadway).

“I knew who I was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then.”
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How Angela Lansbury got #15
Posted: 1/6/20 at 6:32pm

BWAY Baby2 said: "Judy in Dolly- Judy in Mame- so many possibilities- and such a tragic end fora great star."

Indeed, and sooo frustrating that she died right before Sondheim hit his stride. Can you imagine her covers of Ladies Who Lunch, I'm Still Here, Send in the Clowns? They would have been definitive. 

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How Angela Lansbury got #16
Posted: 1/6/20 at 6:52pm

And there's this......

I was fortunate to see "Mame" with Ginger Rogers in London in 1969 (she was wonderful, by the way).  Certainly she was still a "star" back then, which makes me wonder if she might also have been considered for the original Broadway production.  

 

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How Angela Lansbury got #17
Posted: 1/6/20 at 6:55pm

Roz Russell was in talks for an Auntie Mame tv show and chose to go forward with that and didn't do the musical, however nothing actually got produced.

Also Sondheim has said Lansbury was supposed to be Deseree but did Gypsy in London instead.

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How Angela Lansbury got #18
Posted: 1/6/20 at 7:05pm

nasty_khakis said: "Also Sondheim has said Lansbury was supposed to be Deseree but did Gypsy in London instead."

interesting... I don't think I had ever heard that... would she have been good?

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How Angela Lansbury got #19
Posted: 1/6/20 at 7:13pm

Thanks for the video, Highland Guy.

I'd never heard that Lansbury was supposed to play Desiree, either. It's easy to see why she chose Gypsy instead--that's a star's role, whereas though Desiree can be a star spot, A Little Night Music is truly an ensemble piece. I'm not sure she would have been better for the role than Glynis Johns, not a comment on talent but on a role fitting a performer like a glove. 

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How Angela Lansbury got #20
Posted: 1/6/20 at 7:31pm

WOW! Rogers was pushing 60 at this time, and what a dancer she still was - incredible! 

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How Angela Lansbury got #21
Posted: 1/6/20 at 8:43pm

According to the Publisher's Weekly review of Herman's autobiography, SHOWTUNES, "Judy Garland was the top contender to replace Angela Lansbury in Mame but was vetoed because of her unreliability stemming from drinking and drug problems." Notice that she was supposed to REPLACE Lansbury.  I am assuming the reviewer read the book. 

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How Angela Lansbury got #22
Posted: 1/7/20 at 8:48am

David10086 said: "WOW! Rogers was pushing 60 at this time, and what a dancer she still was - incredible!"

This ageism still surprises me.  Anyone who keeps in shape can still move like a 20 year old at 60.   Chita Rivera was 60 when she did KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN.  Kicking her leg behind her head, being carried and flipped, spinning in a cage, climbing a mesh spider web several feet off the stage with a harness.  Madonna is over 60 and doing more physically challenging movements and dances in her current tour.  Cher is in her mid 70s touring the world and on stage almost 2 hours with complex costume changes interspersed plus Bette Midler in her early 70s did her entire run of HELLO, DOLLY! only missing 1 performance.  Ginger Rogers, a dancer, could easily play MAME with no physical issues as it’s not a demanding dance role.  

THIS is a 60 year old Chita Rivera.

How Angela Lansbury got

 

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How Angela Lansbury got #23
Posted: 1/7/20 at 8:58am

mikey2573 said: "According to the Publisher's Weekly review of Herman's autobiography, SHOWTUNES, "Judy Garland was the top contender to replace Angela Lansbury in Mame but was vetoed because of her unreliability stemming from drinking and drug problems." Notice that she was supposed to REPLACE Lansbury. I am assuming the reviewer read the book."

I have read the book a few times, and yes, as Jerry Herman wrote in his book, Judy Garland was to replace in Mame. He also notes that a friend saw a concert of Judy's where she sang 'If He Walked into My Life", and broke everyone's heart. 

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How Angela Lansbury got #24
Posted: 1/7/20 at 9:43am

BrodyFosse123 said: "David10086 said: "WOW! Rogers was pushing 60 at this time, and what a dancer she still was - incredible!"

This ageism still surprises me. Anyone who keeps in shape can still move like a 20 year old at 60. Chita Rivera was 60 when she did KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN. Kicking her leg behind her head, being carried and flipped, spinning in a cage, climbing a mesh spider web several feet off the stagewith a harness. Madonna is over 60 and doing more physically challenging movements and dances in her current tour. Cheris in her mid 70s touring the world and on stage almost 2 hours with complex costume changes interspersed plus Bette Midler in her early 70sdid her entire run of HELLO, DOLLY! only missing 1 performance. Ginger Rogers, a dancer, could easily play MAME with no physical issues as it’s not a demanding dance role.


"

What you're neglecting is the fact that we've come a long way today from 50 years ago as far as health and exercise. A very long way in advancing in the health and medical fields, nutrition, healthy lifestyles, and exercise.

60 years old in 1969 is not even remotely the same as being 60 years old in 2020. To compare Rogers to Madonna or Cher is ridiculous. Even to compare her to Rivera in the mid 90s is ridiculous - again, healthy living, modern medicine, and exercise came a very long way in those 25 years.

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How Angela Lansbury got #25
Posted: 1/7/20 at 9:54am

fashionguru_23 said: "mikey2573 said: "According to the Publisher's Weekly review of Herman's autobiography, SHOWTUNES, "Judy Garland was the top contender to replace Angela Lansbury in Mame but was vetoed because of her unreliability stemming from drinking and drug problems." Notice that she was supposed to REPLACE Lansbury. I am assuming the reviewer read the book."

I have read the book a few times, and yes, as Jerry Herman wrote in his book, Judy Garland was to replace in Mame. He also notes that a friend saw a concert of Judy's where she sang 'If He Walked into My Life", and broke everyone's heart.
"

Thanks for the confirmation (I was one of the ones who thought it was Dolly, not Mame). While I can imagine Garland doing an amazing "If He Walked Into My Life" in concert, I think she would have been wrong as Mame. Garland's type (much like Lucille Ball's) was the common/average person, generally middle class. I don't know that she had the aristocratic airs for Mame (honestly am not sure a lot of the stars did who took over the role after Lansbury). I think she would have been a wonderful Dolly.