Friday, March 27, 2009

Angela Lansbury as Mame

This was how she was billed when she took on her second Broadway musical in 1966. She fought very hard to even be seen for it, as the powers that be felt she was always playing "somebody's mother." It took a lot of hard work and effort on her part, but with the help of composer Jerry Herman, she won the role. It's a well-known fact that Angela Lansbury didn't get to make the film version of Mame in Hollywood. Lansbury, who won her first of an unprecedented four Tonys for Best Actress in a Musical, gave a star turn for the ages and she reached a new level of stardom in her career. But her performance, seen for two years on Broadway and later on national tour, wasn't enough for her to land the part when Warner Bros. got the film up and running. She didn't go down without a fight: some say her showstopping production number of "Thoroughly Modern Millie" on the '68 Oscar telecast was an audition of sorts for the Hollywood establishment. Lucille Ball made the film, and the rest is unfortunate history (have you seen the film...? yikes).

In 1983, Lansbury revived the show for what proved to be an ill-advised and short-lived flop revival of her signature role. The show, with little fanfare, set up shop in the behemoth Gershwin Theatre for a disappointing run of 41 performances. Anne Francine (Bea Arthur's replacement and a cabaret star), Jane Connell, Willard Waterman, Sab Shimino all reprised their original roles opposite Lansbury. While the response to the revival was tepid, Lansbury was nothing short of sensational. Have a look...

"It's Today"


"That's How Young I Feel"

"If He Walked Into My Life" plus the staged curtain call


SarahB said...

Oh she's so brilliant. This is why nobody else has even attempted to revive Mame on Broadway. It can't be done. About the film, I also heard that Ball put up some of the money. That figures. That film is worse than anything. I LOVE MAME and AUNTIE MAME - the books, the play, the Auntie Mame movie, but I just can't watch Mame the movie. It's heart breaking knowing what could have been.

Kevin Daly said...

It is heart-breaking. At least there are these clips available to show us how luminiscent she was onstage as that favorite of all aunts.

It takes someone extra special to pull off Mame Dennis Burnside, even moreso in the musical. So far, I don't think there is anyone who could pull off a star turn quite like she did.