While watching this clip, I realized that Angela Lansbury never transferred any of her Tony award winning performances to London’s West End. She starred in the original London production of Gypsy in 1973, but that production transferred to Broadway the following year. Sheila Hancock would be the West End’s first Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd. While Lansbury was appearing on Broadway in Dear World, an Oscar winning Hollywood legend was opening in Mame in the West End: Ginger Rogers. A few years earlier, Rogers had been a Broadway replacement in Hello, Dolly!
The production ran for a little over a year at the Drury Lane Theatre. Lawrence Kasha restaged Gene Saks’ direction while Onna White recreated her own choreography. No original London cast album was made (though there are rumors that one was recorded but never released, as singing was never Rogers’ strongest suit). The show was less rapturously received in London than it was on Broadway, with many of the critics agreeing that the evening hinged on Rogers’ personality and star quality (for better or for worse). Margaret Courtenay was Vera, Burt Kwouk (from The Pink Panther films) was Ito and Julia McKenzie was Gloria Upson. Ms. Rogers was supposed to star in a French version of the show, but that fell through. She later appeared in the role again in Houston (in the round, no less) in late 1971, about the same time she toured in Coco.
This is a performance of the show’s famed title song on the Royal Variety Performance. Ginger doesn’t sing or speak a single word, but dances up a storm. She brings glamour and beauty to the part, even if it’s not quite the real thing.(Special thanks to Steven C. Cates for bringing this clip to my attention).
Here’s a short newsreel covering the pre-production and opening night, with some color film of Ginger looking quite stunning in Robert MacIntosh’s fabulous costumes.