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Angela Lansbury in Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit", at the Sam S. Schubert Theatre
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Angela Lansbury in Noel Coward's "Blithe Spirit", at the Sam S. Schubert Theatre

- Backstage with the Playwrights

Noel Coward’s
Blithe Spirit
(Noel Coward Bio)

Starring Angela Lansbury
Rupert Everett, Christine Ebersole, Jayne Atkinson

Simon Jones, Deborah Rush, Susan Louise O’Connor

Directed by Michael Blakemore

Sam S. Shubert Theatre
A Shubert Organization Theatre
225 West 44th Street

Scenic Design: Peter J. Davison
Costume Design: Martin Pakledinaz
Lighting Design: Brian MacDevitt
Sound Design: Peter Fitzgerald
Production Supervisor: Steven Zweigbaum
Wig & Hair Design: Paul Huntley
Casting: Telsey + Company
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Press Representatives: Jeffrey Richards Assoc./
Irene Gandy/Alana Karpoff
Company Manager: Bruce Klinger
General Management: Richards/Climan, Inc.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 25, 2009

Angela Lansbury had announced last October at the Career Transition for Dancers Gala that after hip and knee replacement she was all set for an acting-dancing role on Broadway in the Spring. I hardly believed it, but here she is, as Madame Arcati, a spiritualist, who creates magic for hire, right on a table in a splendidly furnished Kent, England living room. She has been hired by Charles Condomine (Rupert Everett) the dinner party host, to assist his research, as he writes his next mystery novel. Charles’ wife, Ruth (Jayne Atkinson), is drawn into this psychic adventure, along with their dinner friends, Dr. Bradman and Mrs. Bradman (Simon Jones and Deborah Rush). Dashing back and forth amidst the proceedings in this lavish home is the funniest housekeeper, Edith (Susan Louise O’Connor), who jumpstarts the campy adventures.

Charles and Ruth seem right away to have a marriage of pragmatism, leisure, and little chemistry. Theirs seems to be an arrangement, a steady flow of marital routine and social schedules. But, all is turned upside down, as Madame Arcati, in vibrant textures and colors and brief stylized dances, shows up in full exotic regalia to conjure up a ghost. Not just any ghost, as in walks Elvira (Christine Ebersole), Charles’ deceased wife. Ms. Ebersole is sultry, seductive, and persevering, as she chases Charles, hides behind doors, and causes essential havoc to his brittle second marriage and wavering restraint. Soon Charles is attempting to have it both ways, two wives, two time zones, two realities. And the plot thickens and winds in further surprises and destinies. At all times, this cast is in the uproarious moment, with Feydeau-like farce. Doors open and close, furniture falls, characters appear and disappear, falling in and out of love and life.

Angela Lansbury is filled with vigor and spunk, an actor performing at peak capacity. She engages the audience in these surreal scenes, and we are hers for the duration. She’s on top of her game, winging her lines at times, but who cares. It’s the performance of a pro that’s key, and Ms. Lansbury is one seasoned pro. She fills the stage with a magical spirit that surpasses whatever she’s conjured from her crystal ball. Christine Ebersole is enticing as Elvira, perfectly cast, a larger-than-life ghostly apparition. She too seizes space and enunciates her lines with delicious precision. I hope Ms. Lansbury and Ms. Ebersole appear onstage together again. Jayne Atkinson was the quintessentially stuffy wife of convenience, and her twists of fate were performed with aplomb. Rupert Everett could have relaxed more into the role, with a bit more improvisation, but, as the novelist at leisure, he, too, kept me immersed in the madcap momentum. Simon Jones and Deborah Rush, as the guests, added clever repartee. Michael Blakemore, Director, timed the pace efficiently for farcical finales. Kudos to Angela Lansbury, and kudos to Christine Ebersole.

Christine Ebersole, Angela Lansbury,
and Rupert Everett in "Blithe Spirit"
Courtesy of Robert J. Saferstein

Jayne Atkinson in "Blithe Spirit"
Courtesy of Robert J. Saferstein

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For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at