Lithe and Blithe

While Sunday night was a night to celebrate the Tonys, Tuesday night was business as usual as shows came back from their day off of basking in awards afterglow. Reasons to be Pretty and Guys and Dolls were the first casualties of the season; winning no awards and struggling at the box office, the producers of both shows are calling it quits this coming Sunday. (If you haven’t, it’s your last chance for the superb Reasons).

Continuing our annual tradition, Sarah, Roxie, Noah and I took in our post-Tony show, this time switching our allegiance from lead actress and featured actress in a musical (good call, both Ripley and Olivo were out sick!) to featured actress in a play for the resplendent Angela Lansbury in Blithe Spirit. I was there on its opening night back on March 15 and as I reported then, it is a first-rate revival of Coward’s classic comedy. The good news? The production is even sharper and better than ever.

Jayne Atkinson, in a leading performance that was so woefully and inexplicably overlooked by the Tony committee, continues to bring incredible nuance and humor to sensible Ruth, the put-upon second wife. Rupert Everett is a bit more spontaneous in his line readings than I recall; Ebersole is Ebersole as Elvira, with an accent of undetermined origin and consistency. Meanwhile, in the smallest of roles, Susan Louise O’Connor continues to provide score comic highs as the dithering maid Edith while Simon Jones and Deborah Rush continue to make characters out of caricatures as the Bradmans.

Now onto the bad news: this revival is a strictly limited engagement that ends on July 19. If you haven’t seen the production, first and foremost I must ask you “Why not?” You are missing out on one of the definitive stage legends of our time delivering a most memorable (and did I mention Tony-winning) turn as the eccentric Madame Arcati. Lansbury astounds in a warm, kinetic performance continuing to grow in the part as the run progresses. Her spontaneity and interpretative dances continue to charm the audience into gales of uncontrollable laughter. Both the performance and the Tony win are latest triumphs of a career that is 65 years and counting.

Though the revival itself was overlooked in that particular category by the Tony people, the production remains the champagne toast to the Broadway season, with wit, guile and a considerable sense of style. To miss this once in a lifetime opportunity is, in my mind, unthinkable.

Both pre-show and post-show were spent at our beloved Angus McIndoe’s, where I pleaded for french fries with such intensity that I’m still not sure if I amused or alarmed our waitress. Oh – and I almost forgot to mention that I met the gorgeous and lovely Megan Hilty in Shubert Alley, on her way home from 9 to 5. She couldn’t be anymore gracious and down to earth, introducing herself to each of us and engaging in a brief chat. I look forward to seeing the young star in 9 to 5.

After the show we waited around for Ms. Lansbury to emerge from the Shubert Theatre. After quite some time, the icon came out on the arm of her producer, Jeffrey Richards, looking the epitome of elegance and class. Instead of asking for autographs or taking pictures, the few of us standing there on the sidewalk merely broke out into applause. We were rewarded with a warm wave of affection as the star blew us a kiss before heading off into the evening.