Angela Lansbury Stars in BLITHE SPIRIT at the Ahmanson, Beginning Tonight
Following the internationally acclaimed production with sold-out engagements on Broadway and in London's West End, television legend, Oscar recipient and five-time Tony Award-winner Angela Lansbury returns to the stage in Noel Coward's smash-hit comedic play "Blithe Spirit" in an exciting North American tour to be launched at Center Theatre Group's Ahmanson Theatre.
Performances for "Blithe Spirit" at the Ahmanson begin tonight, December 9, 2014, and run through Sunday, January 18, 2015. The opening is set for Sunday, December 14.
Following the L.A. engagement, the tour will continue to SHN's Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco, January 20 through February 1, 2015; Mirvish Productions' Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto, February 10 through March 15, and concludes in Washington, D.C., March 17 through March 29, at the National Theatre where Lansbury made her first pre-Broadway stage debut nearly 58 years ago to the day.
Returning to the role of Madame Arcati, for which she won her fifth Tony Award in 2009 for Best Featured Actress in a Play, Angela Lansbury (the popular TV show "Murder, She Wrote," the memorable stage productions of "Sweeney Todd" and "Mame," the classic film "Gaslight") will be joined by an all-star cast including Charles Edwards (PBS' "Downton Abbey," "The 39 Steps," "Blithe Spirit" - 2014 West End revival), Jemima Rooper (the film "The Black Dahlia," "One Man, Two Guvnors," "Blithe Spirit" - 2014 West End revival) and Charlotte Parry ("Coram Boy," "The Importance of Being Earnest"). The cast also includes Susan Louise O'Connor ("What to Do When You Hate All Your Friends," "Blithe Spirit" - 2009 Broadway revival) and Sandra Shipley ("Anything Goes," "Blithe Spirit" - 2009 Broadway revival). Additional casting will be announced in the coming days.
The play is directed by two-time Tony Award-winner Michael Blakemore ("Kiss Me, Kate," "Copenhagen").
"It's going to be exciting to play Los Angeles for the first time in over 30 years," said Lansbury. "I'm delighted to be returning to the Ahmanson Theatre in the role of Madame Arcati in Noe?l Coward's wonderfully funny play 'Blithe Spirit.' It is one of the great comedic roles and playing her for a new audience every night is a joy. I can't think of a better place to start off this tour than with my family and friends here in my own backyard."
The creative team includes scenic and costume designs by Helen Hayes Award-winner Simon Higlett, Ms. Lansbury's costume designs by two-time Tony Award-winner Martin Pakledinaz and sound design by Olivier Award-winners Ben and Max Ringham.
"Blithe Spirit" replaces the previously postponed production of "Heartbeat of Home" in the Ahmanson Theatre's 2014-2015 season.
Tickets for "Blithe Spirit" go on sale September 24 and are available by calling (213) 972-4400, visiting www.CenterTheatreGroup.org, or in person at the Center Theatre Group box office at the Ahmanson Theatre.
"Blithe Spirit," one of Noel Coward's most popular comedies, was first seen on Broadway in 1941, the same year it was produced in London where it set British box office records and was the longest running comedy (1,997 performances) until it was eventually surpassed by "Boeing-Boeing" in the 1970s. The original Broadway production played nearly twoyearsandco-starredLeonoraCorbett,MildredNatwick,CliftonWebbandPeggyWood. In 1987, it was revived on Broadway in an all-star production with Richard Chamberlain, Blythe Danner, Judith Ivey, and Geraldine Page, in her final Broadway appearance.
The latest revival on Broadway in 2009 was directed by Michael Blakemore and co- starred Angela Lansbury, Jayne Atkinson, Christine Ebersole, Rupert Everett, Simon Jones and Susan Louise O'Connor. Following its critical acclaim and box office success on Broadway, Lansbury returned to the London stage after 40 years to reprise her Tony Award®-winning role. Also under the direction of Michael Blakemore and starring Lansbury, the London revival opened at the Gielgud Theatre on March 18, 2014, and co-starred Janie Dee, Serena Evans, Charles Edwards, Patsy Ferran, Simon Jones and Jemima Rooper.
Coward, in his autobiography, claimed he wrote the play in five days during a holiday. Only two lines of dialogue were removed before its first production in London.
Researching for his new novel, Charles Condomine invites the implausible medium Madame Arcati to his house for a seance. While consumed in a trance, Madame Arcati unwittingly summons the ghost of Charles' dead wife Elvira. Appearing only to Charles, Elvira soon makes a play to reclaim her husband, much to the chagrin of Charles' new wife Ruth. One husband, two feuding wives and a whisper of mischief in the air - who will win in Coward's unworldly comedy?
For more information about the "Blithe Spirit" tour, visit www.BlitheSpiritThePlay.com.
ANGELA LANSBURY (Madame Arcati) has enjoyed a career spanning over 70 years in film, stage and television. Winner of five Tony Awards, she made her Broadway debut in 1957 playing Bert Lahr's wife in "Hotel Paradiso" which opened its pre-Broadway tryout on March 16, 1957, at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C. where she will return 58 years later during the final two weeks of the North American tour of Noe?l Coward's "Blithe Spirit." In 1960, she returned to Broadway as Joan Plowright's mother in Shelagh Delaney's "A Taste of Honey." She starred in her first musical, "Anyone Can Whistle" in 1964, and in 1966 she triumphed as "Mame," winning her first Tony. She won Tonys for "Dear World" (1968), "Gypsy" (1974) and "Sweeney Todd" (1979). After a 23-year hiatus, she returned to Broadway in 2007 starring in Terrence McNally's "Deuce." In 2009 she won her fifth Tony Award as Madame Arcati in Noe?l Coward's "Blithe Spirit," which was followed in 2010 by her performance as Madame Armfeldt in Stephen Sondheim's classic "A Little Night Music" and Gore Vidal's classic "The Best Man" (2012). In 2013, she appeared in the highly acclaimed Australian tour of Alfred Uhry's play "Driving Miss Daisy," also starring James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines. It was so successful that it was filmed as a live theatre performance and was released in movie theatres worldwide earlier this year.
Most recently, in March 2014, she reprised the role of Madame Arcati at the Gielgud Theatre, which opened to rave reviews and great acclaim. It marked her return to the London stage for the first time in nearly 40 years. Previous London appearances were in the Royal Shakespeare Company's production of Edward Albee's "All Over" at the Aldwich, "Gypsy" by Arthur Laurents, Jules Styne and Stephen Sondheim at the Piccadilly, and "Hamlet" co-starring Albert Finney at the National.
She has appeared in over 60 motion pictures beginning with "Gaslight" at the age of 17 for which she was nominated for an Academy Award. Her other films include such classics as "National Velvet," "The Harvey Girls," Frank Capra's "State of the Union," "The Portrait of Dorian Gray" (her second film and second Academy Award nomination), Cecil B. DeMille's "Samson and Delilah," "The Court Jester," "The Long Hot Summer," "The Manchurian Candidate" (Academy Award nomination), "The World of Henry Orient" and "Death on the Nile." In 1991 she was the voice of Mrs. Potts in the Disney animated feature "Beauty and the Beast," and in 1997 she was the voice of the Grand Duchess Marie in the animated film "Anastasia." In 2005, she was in Emma Thompson's "Nanny McPhee" and in 2011 she co-starred with Jim Carrey in "Mr. Poppers Penguins."
From 1984-1996 she made television history starring as Jessica Fletcher on "Murder, She Wrote," the longest-running detective drama series in TV history, winning four of her six Golden Globe Awards. She has also starred in numerous other films for television and appeared as a guest star on series such as "Law & Order."
She is a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, the Kennedy Center Honors. In addition to her five Tonys, she is the winner of six Golden Globe Awards and was nominated for 18 Emmys and three Oscars. In 2013 she was awarded an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement in Motion Pictures. She is a member of the theatre and television halls of fame and recipient of the Silver Mask for Lifetime Achievement from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts, as well as the BAFTA/LA Britannia Award for Lifetime Achievement in Television and Film. Earlier named a Commander of the British Empire, she was named a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II on this New Year's Honours List and was invested at Windsor Castle on April 15, 2014.
She was married to motion picture executive Peter Shaw for 53 years. He died in 2003. She has three children and three grandchildren.
CHARLES EDWARDS (Charles Condomine) plays Lady Edith's publisher lover Michael Gregson in "Downton Abbey." He played Charles in Michael Blakemore's hugely successful London production of "Blithe Spirit" in 2014. Also in London's West End he played Bertie in the original stage play "The King's Speech" by the Oscar-winning playwright David Seidler, and Benedick in "Much Ado About Nothing" at Shakespeare's Globe; he was nominated as Best Actor at the London Evening Standard Awards for these performances. He
led the Tony-winning Broadway production of "The 39 Steps," having originated the role of Richard Hannay in London, where it won the Olivier Award for Best Comedy. He played Oberon opposite Dame Judi Dench as Titania in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" at the Rose Theatre, and in Coward's "Hay Fever" at the Haymarket Theatre he played Sandy Tyrrell with Dame Judi as Judith Bliss. At the National Theatre he won the 2014 Clarence Derwent Award for his performance as Marsden in Eugene O'Neill's "Strange Interlude" opposite Anne-Marie Duff. Also at the NT he has played Andrew Aguecheek in Sir Peter Hall's production of "Twelfth Night," Michael Quince in "Pravda" opposite Ralph Fiennes, directed by Sir Nicholas Hytner, and Jack Weatherill in James Graham's 1970s political epic, "This House," for which he was again nominated as Best Actor by the Evening Standard.
For television Charles has just completed filming "Arthur and George," a new series for ITV about Sherlock Holmes author Arthur Conan Doyle. He played Monty Python's Michael Palin in the BAFTA-nominated "Holy Flying Circus" for the BBC, and he also plays hapless doctor Iain McKenzie in the ongoing Sky comedy series "Trying Again," both of these projects come from the writers of the multi-award-winning HBO series "Veep," Simon Blackwell and Tony Roche. In 2014 he worked with Jon Hamm and Daniel Radcliffe on the series "A Young Doctor's Notebook," and with Matthew McFadyen on the BBC's "Ripper Street."
Recently in the cinema he appeared in Stephen Frears' "Philomena" with Steve Coogan. Other film work includes Christopher Nolan's "Batman Begins," "Mansfield Park," "An Ideal Husband" and Charles Sturridge's "Longitude." He trained at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London.
JEMIMA ROOPER (Elvira). Most recently Jemima has been seen on the West End stage in "Breeders" and the sell out West End production of "Blithe Spirit" opposite Angela Lansbury. Other theatre credits include "One Man, Two Guvnors" (National Theatre, Tour, West End, Broadway), "Me and My Girl" (Sheffield Crucible), "All My Sons" (West End), "The Power of Yes" (NT), "The Great Game: Afghanistan" (Tricycle), "Her Naked Skin" (NT), "A Respectable Wedding" (Young Vic), "Us and Them" (Hampstead Theatre) and "Where Do We Live" (Royal Court). Film includes "What If," "One Chance," "The Black Dahlia," "Kinky Boots," "A Sound of Thunder," "Snapshots," "Owd Bob," "Willy's War" and "The Higher Mortals." Television includes "Lucky 7," "Atlantis" (Series 1 and 2), "Frankenstein's Wedding," "A Bouquet of Barbed Wire," "Poirot: The Third Girl," "Lost in Austen," "Hex," "As If" and "The Railway Children." Jemima was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for What's On Stage Awards 2011 ("One Man, Two Guvnors") 2010 ("All My Sons") and for Best Performance in Musical for Theatre Awards UK 2011 ("Me And My Girl").
CHARLOTTE PARRY (Ruth) recently played Gemma in Adam Bock's "The Colby Sisters" in the West End, and Catherine Winslow in the very well received Broadway run of "The Winslow Boy." Charlotte was a member of the inaugural year of Sam Mendes' Bridge Project, performing "The Cherry Orchard" and "The Winter's Tale" at BAM, in the West End and internationally. She played Cecily in the sellout Broadway run of "The Importance of Being Earnest." Broadway: "The Winslow Boy," "Coram Boy," "The Real Thing" and "The Importance Of Being Earnest." Off Broadway: "Equivocation" (MTC), "Look Back In Anger" and "Howard Katz" (Roundabout), "The Master Builder" (Irish Rep), "Rainbow Kiss" (The Play Company), "The Lover" (Directorfest). For Sir Peter Hall Company at BAM, Center Theatre Group and London: "As You Like It" and "The Importance Of Being Earnest."
Regional: Eliza Doolittle in "Pygmalion" (Old Globe), world premiere of John Patrick Shanley's "Pirate" at New York Stage and Film, world premiere of Edward Albee's "Me, Myself and I," and "The Birthday Party" (McCarter Theatre), "The Turn Of The Screw" (Westport Country Playhouse), "Cymbeline" and "Private Lives" (NJ Shakespeare). In the UK - West End: "The Colby Sisters," "The Real Thing," "The Cherry Orchard" and "The Winter's Tale." Regional and National Tours: "Charley's Aunt," "Amadeus," "The Blue Room," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "Titus Andronicus," "As You Like It," "Northanger Abbey," "Les Liaisons Dangereuses," "The Seagull," "Three Sisters," "Godspell," "Follies" and "Whistle Down The Wind." TV: "The Safe House" (ITV) and "Extreme Ghost Stories" (ITV). Film: "The Park Bench." Charlotte has narrated over 50 audiobooks in America and the UK.
SUSAN LOUISE O'CONNOR (Edith). "Blithe Spirit" on Broadway (Theatre World Award, Dorothy Loudon Fellowship, Outer Critics Circle nomination). Other theatre credits include productions with Rattlestick Theatre, Urban Stages, Huntington Theatre, Premiere Stages, Cincinnati Playhouse, St. Louis Rep., Abingdon Theater, La MaMa, Collaboration Town, Daryl Roth Prod., Resonance Ensemble and Barrington Stage. Film, TV and web credits include "Orange is the New Black," "Boardwalk Empire," "Law & Order: CI," "Doomsdays," "Flying Scissors," "Coming Up Roses," "Acts of Worship," "Yellow Fever," "The Poets," "Project Beth" and "Wallflowers" (Seasons 1 and 2). She stars in, co-wrote and co-produced the web series "Lucy Knows Love." www.susanlouiseoconnor.com
SANDRA SHIPLEY (Mrs. Bradman). Broadway: "The Importance of Being Earnest," "Blithe Spirit," "Equus," "Pygmalion," "Retreat From Moscow," "Vincent in Brixton" and "Indiscretions." Off-Broadway/Tour: "Anything Goes" (Tour), "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes" (Encores), "Suddenly Last Summer" and "Deep Blue Sea" (Roundabout), "Kindertransport" (MTC), "Stuff Happens" and "Venus" (Public). Regional: ART, Humana, Hartford, Huntington, La Jolla, Long Wharf, Old Globe, Williamstown, Guthrie. UK: RSC, Royal Court, West End. Film/TV: "Monument Ave," "Law & Order: SVU," "Third Watch" and "Lipstick Jungle." Elliot Norton Award Medal for Theatre Excellence.
MICHAEL BLAKEMORE (Director) became the first director to win a Tony Award® both for a musical ("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 Awards. Michael was Associate Director at 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 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" and "The Sisters Rosenweig." 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; "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. 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). Michael has directed "Democracy" (New York and London); "Embers" and "Three Sisters" (London); "Deuce, Is He Dead?" and "Blithe Spirit" (Broadway and West End).
NOEL COWARD (Playwright) has achieved enduring success as a playwright, composer, director, actor, and singer. Many of his plays are firm favorites 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."
Pictured: Angela Lansbury (clockwise from her) Janie Dee, Simon Jones (obscured) Serena Evans (obscured) and Charles Edwards in the 2014 West End revival of Noël Coward's BLITHE SPIRIT. Photo by Johan Persson.