Friday, April 10, 2009

Blithe Spirit

This revival of Noel Coward’s classic comedy definitely lives up to its name -- it’s joyful and full of life. Every member of the cast, headed by four-time Tony Award winner Angela Lansbury, sparkles with wit and impeccable timing, the set is spectacular and not one second of the show is wasted. It’s a shimmering treat from start to finish.

Lansbury is a hoot as eccentric psychic Madame Arcati, cavorting around the stage in her colorful garb (fabulous costumes by Martin Pakledinaz) and conjuring up the spirit of Elvira (Christine Ebersole), the lovely and a bit naughty late wife of novelist Charles Condomine (Rupert Everett) in whose elegant English country house the “séance” takes place.

The play, perfectly directed by Michael Blakemore, begins as Charles and his older second wife, Ruth (Jayne Atkinson), and their friends Dr. and Mrs. Bradman (Simon Jones and Deborah Rush) sip cocktails, chat and joke about the upcoming séance, which Charles has initiated to observe Madame Arcati as research for a character for one of his mystery novels. He gets more than expected after the aged medium bursts on the scene and begins her conjuring.

Ebersole is a delightfully mischievous ghost who appears after the guests have left. She flitters around the stage tormenting Ruth, who can’t see her, and flirting with Charles, who very much can.

Susan Louise O’Connor is also a treasure as a frighten mouse of a character, the servant Edith, who clatters the dishes loudly and scatters about in a near run.

Peter J. Davison’s set is divine and Brian MacDevitt lighting is effectively cheery or shadowy, as needed.

Blithe Spirit, which premiered in 1941, was one of Coward's biggest successes. The original Broadway production starred Clifton Webb as Charles, Peggy Wood as Ruth and Leonora Corbett as Elvira, with Mildred Natwick as Madame Arcati. The play originated in London, with Coward starring as Charles.

See this magnificent new production now at the Shubert Theatre, 225 W. 44th St. Tickets are available at the box office, by calling (212) 239-6200 or by visiting

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