Funny Women: Patricia Routledge

One of the joys of Netflix (and possibly its downfall as well) is finding shows streaming in their entirety. One of these shows is the British hit Keeping Up Appearances starring the one and only Patricia Routledge as the one and only Hyacinth Bucket, the irrepressible social climbing snob. While the writing is rarely up to the quality of the cast, the show is often quite funny with Hyacinth getting carried away with herself and foiled by her down-to-earth relatives and friends. One of my favorite episodes is the one where she was desperate to get a part in a local production of The Boy Friend and spontaneously burst into song at the drop of a hat.

Routledge was the subject of an episode of the BBC series Funny Women, which profiled some of the funnier female stars of British stage and television, including Maureen Lipman and Prunella Scales. I relish in every opportunity I have to see Routledge’s film and TV work, as I was not yet born when her stage career was at its peak in the mid-70s and early 80s. Even if the shows themselves failed (as was the case with her Broadway career), critics and audiences fell in love with the vivacious comic soprano. She won a Tony for Darling of the Day, which lasted 31 performances in 1968 (and should be the next Jule Styne score heard at Encores!). The star could have taken the audience home in her pocket after her memorable “Duet for One” in the otherwise loathed 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (which ran only 7 performances).

The half hour episode briefly touches on her whole career, but focuses mostly on her TV work featuring interviews with the Ms. Routledge, Alan Bennett, Michael Frayn, Nigel Hawthorne and TV leading men Clive Swift and Dominic Monaghan. One of the things I especially loved was that people came up to Hawthorne after a gala performance and exclaimed “I never knew Patricia Routledge could sing!” I’ve had the same conversation myself many, many times. (And I would just love to have the entire clip of her singing “I Want to Sing in Opera”). Enjoy.



Alan Bennett & Patricia Routledge

Since I’m spending my Sunday immersed in the Anglophilia of The Norman Conquests, I figured I would post something very British in honor of the occasion. Alan Bennett considers Patricia Routledge his favorite actress. The British playwright has written a great many things for her to perform over the years, both onstage and on television. Meanwhile here on our side of the pond, I have been talking to a lot of people about the musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and espousing the brilliance of Routledge. I realized there hasn’t been a mention of her in quite some time here, so here is a clip of Pat and Alan on a British talk show in 1992 discussing Talking Heads:

"Miss Fozzard Finds Her Feet"

Patricia Routledge delivers one of Alan Bennett‘s Talking Heads monologues on the BBC. In this particular story, Miss Fozzard is a lonely clerk in a department store who has to take care of her brother, who is recovering from a severe stroke. It starts with the retirement of her chiropodist, and the relationship she has with his replacement and it goes someplace entirely unexpected. This was a part of Talking Heads 2, Bennett’s second entry that aired in 1998, with this particular piece written expressly for Ms. Routledge, who incidentally, is also his favorite actress.