Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Blithe Spirit

This seems a good idea, but I'm not so sure.

I applaud any project which brings the great Christine Ebersole to the stage. I'm sure she'll be fantastic in this revival of Noel Coward's Blithe Spirit. But I am a bit worried about her supporting cast. Broadway.com is floating the rumor that the great Angela Lansbury is being sought to play Madame Arcati, the medium who inadvertently summons the ghost which Ebersole will play.

The last Broadway incarnation of the show was in 1987, in a production starring Richard Chamberlain, Judith Ivey, Blythe Danner, and the great Geraldine Page as Madame Arcati. I'm Miss Page's biggest fan, and have previously mentioned seeing her live on Broadway in Absurd Person Singular. Here's a pic of the stars of that ill-fated Blithe Spirit revival back in '87:

I wonder what it is about the role of Charles, which attracts homosexual actors? Richard Chamberlain, as noted, played it in the '87 revival, Coward himself played it on TV in the 50's (opposite Lauren Bacall!) and Rupert Everett has been mentioned for the upcoming production. I've been an Everett fan since he was first introduced to American audiences, playing the gay snot who grows up to be a Soviet spy, in Another Country. I made a point of buying tickets to see his LA stage debut way back when; he was starring in a radical reexamination of Noel Coward's first, and least remembered, hit play, The Vortex, a play about heroin, hedonism, and oedipal complexes. What a riot! Rupert was riveting.

Back to Blithe Spirit, Coward's biggest hit. I'm a bit concerned about Lansbury's possible involvement in this planned revival. I'm sure she would be a delight in the role of Madame Arcati, but suppose history repeats itself?
Back in '87, in a classic case of "good news / bad news," Geraldine Page received the revival's only Tony nomination. She lost the award, and six days later, only a few hours before a matinee performance, she dropped dead.