Tuesday, October 11, 2022

The Worst Pies and Best Acting

As Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd, Angela Lansbury was known for the worst pies in London, but she was a consummate performer, even if you wanted to avoid what came out of that oven...

I grew up not just watching Lansbury in TV shows and movies, but also hearing about her legendary stage career. One director who influenced me in my early years acting used to tell the story of how Lansbury would run out onto the stage during curtain calls, never keeping the audience waiting even for a moment.

In 2009, Lansbury returned to Broadway as Madame Arcati in Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. I happened to see her in it during a visit with my good friend Herb Moskovitz, who also passed away this year. At the time, Lansbury was a spry young woman still in her 80s, dancing and twirling around the stage with abandon. She was a joy to watch.

It wasn't even her last appearance on Broadway. She returned later that year as Madame Armfeldt in A Little Night Music, and then again in 2012 in Gore Vidal's The Best Man, appearing alongside John Larroquette, Candice Bergen, and James Earl Jones. (That was another memorable production!) She will be very much missed by the New York theatre community.

Though other people might remember Lansbury for her television and film appearances, I will always think of her as one of the greatest interpreters of the work of Stephen Sondheim. Not only did she appear in Sweeney Todd and A Little Night Music, but she also originated the role of Cora Hoover Hooper in Anyone Can Whistle and played Mama Rose in a legendary revival of Gypsy.

Goodnight, Angela. And thanks for everything.