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Blithe Spirit
Ahmanson Theatre


Susan Louise O'Connor (standing), Sandra Shipley, Charles Edwards, Angela Lansbury, Charlotte Parry, and Simon Jones
When I read that Angela Lansbury was going to be in a production of NoŽl Coward's Blithe Spirit at the Ahmanson, I immediately decided I wanted to see it because I'd never seen Lansbury live onstage before. I own a DVD of her performance in Sweeney Todd, but I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity to see this actor in her recent Tony-winning role. While I enjoyed her performance, the surprise for me was how entertaining and skilled the entire touring production is.

Charles Condomine (Charles Edwards) lives in a pleasantly large house with his second wife Ruth (Charlotte Parry). His first wife Elvira (Jemima Rooper) died young. As research for a book he's writing, Charles invites local medium Madame Arcati (Lansbury) to perform a sťance at his home. Initially, there seems to have been no result from the event, but shortly afterwards, Charles starts seeing and hearing Elvira's ghost. He'll have to act quickly to save his marriage with Ruth, but Elvira has plans of her own.

Lansbury is exactly as you would expect as Arcati: charming and deft with her comedic delivery. Although clearly the audience is there to see her, she doesn't deliver a self-indulgent performance. She's there to serve the play, and she does so very well. A recurring bit where she goes into a trance is a bit shtick-y, but this is a quibble. Edwards is superb as Charles, and Parry is every bit his equal. Rooper is delightful as Elvira, finding just the right tone for the troublesome spirit.

Director Michael Blakemore gets terrific work from his entire cast, shown off to great effect in Simon Higlett's handsome living room set. The pyrotechnics and special effects at the play's conclusion are a nice touch. Coward's play still holds up brilliantly, bolstered by an ingenious premise and memorable characters, although, as always, his dialogue is the true star. If this production hasn't already sold out, acquiring tickets to attend it would be one the best presents you could get or give this holiday season.

Blithe Spirit plays at the Ahmanson Theatre through January 18, 2015. For tickets and information, see www.CenterTheatreGroup.org. For more information on the tour, visit blithespirittheplay.com.

Jeffrey Richards, Jerry Frankel, Steve Traxler, Lee Dean, John Frost, Charles Diamond, Will Trice in association with Ken Davenport, Kathleen K. Johnson and Jam Theatricals present Blithe Spirit by NoŽl Coward. Directed by Michael Blakemore. Scenic Design Simon Higlett; Lighting Design Mark Jonathan; Sound Design Ben and Max Ringham; Costume Design Martin Pakledinaz & Bill Butler; Production Stage Manager John M. Atherlay.

Cast:
Edith: Susan Louise O'Connor
Ruth: Charlotte Parry
Charles: Charles Edwards
Dr. Bradman: Simon Jones
Mrs. Bradman: Sandra Shipley Madame Arcati: Angela Lansbury Elvira: Jemima Rooper


Photo: Joan Marcus

- Terry Morgan


- Terry Morgan






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