R.I.P. Angela Lansbury: The Missus & I Loved You on Broadway

As the Missus said last week, thank God Angela Lansbury didn’t pass away during – and I’m paraphrasing here – England’s Long Goodbye to QE II.

Then again, Angela Lansbury’s timing was always impeccable.

It allowed, for example, Daniel Lewis’s lovely obituary to run on Page One of the New York Times.

She was a Hollywood and Broadway sensation, but she captured the biggest audience of her career as the TV sleuth Jessica Fletcher.

Angela Lansbury, a formidable actress who captivated Hollywood in her youth, became a Broadway musical sensation in middle age and then drew millions of fans as a widowed mystery writer on the long-running television series “Murder, She Wrote,” died on Tuesday at her home in Los Angeles. She was 96.

Her death was announced in a statement by her family.

Ms. Lansbury was the winner of five competitive Tony Awards for her starring performances on the New York stage, from “Mame” in 1966 to “Blithe Spirit” in 2009, when she was 83, a testament to her extraordinary stamina. She also received a special Tony for lifetime achievement at this year’s ceremony. Yet she appeared on Broadway only from time to time over a seven-decade career in film, theater and television in which there were also years when nothing seemed to be coming up roses.

The Times also published film critic Scott Tobias’s piece The Many Faces of Angela Lansbury and theater critic Jesse Green’s appraisal Angela Lansbury, Broadway’s Beloved Everywoman.

As luck would have it, the Missus and I saw just about every one of Angela Lansbury’s Broadway performances starting with her definitive portrayal of Mrs. Lovett (check out this Lansbury/LuPone/ Bonham Carter bakeoff for proof) in the 1979 production of Sweeney Todd, which she and Len Cariou reprised in 2005 for Stephen Sondheim’s 75th birthday concert.


(Full lyrics here for those of you keeping score at home.)

We waited quite a while  – insert “Murder, She Wrote’ (1984-1996) here – to see Angela Lansbury on Broadway again, this time in the 2007 production of Terrence McNally’s Deuce.

Here’s a CUNY Theater Talk interview with Lansbury and her Deuce co-star, the inimitable Marian Seldes.


Two years later we were mesmerized by Lansbury’s appearance as Madame Arcati in the Broadway revival of Noël Coward’s Blithe Spirit.

Once again, an interview on CUNY’s Theater Talk with Susan Haskins and Michael Riedel.


Amazingly, six months later Angela Lansbury was back on Broadway – along with Catherine Zeta-Jones – in a a revival of Stephen Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, in which she was quite wonderful in the role of Madame Armfeldt.


In 2012 Lansbury returned to Broadway (along with James Earl Jones, Candice Bergen, and John Larroquette) in Gore Vidal’s satirical play, The Best Man. Here’s her first scene.


In her final Broadway performance Angela Lansbury was, as always, pitch-perfect.

One final note: In 2011 Lansbury came to town for an event at Boston University’s Gotlieb Archival Center.

Ginger Rogers Century Exhibit comes to BU

On Monday October 24 the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center honored Ginger Rogers by debuting its newest collection of her memorabilia, the “Ginger Rogers Century Exhibition.” The iconic actress, dancer and singer would have turned 100 this year. Academy Award winning actress, Angela Lansbury introduced the collection, citing Ginger Rogers as her single, biggest inspiration.

After Lansbury’s opening remarks, guests were invited to view the archive, which was filled with movie posters, film clips, childhood photos and even Rogers’ Oscar.

Angela Lansbury’s opening remarks were written by . . . the Missus – a task that was one of the great joys of her professional career.

For those of you keeping score at home.

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