The event: Opening night for Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit,” starring Angela Lansbury, brought an impressive array of big names Sunday to the Center Theatre Group’s Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles. For theater supporters and other VIPs, a cast party followed at the nearby Spear Steak & Seafood House.
The crowd: Among the stars and movers and shakers who turned out were Bryan Cranston of “Breaking Bad”; Jesse Tyler Ferguson of “Modern Family”; Eric McCormack and Sean Hayes of “Will & Grace”; Dan Bucatinsky of “Scandal”; Wendie Malick of “Hot in Cleveland”; John Larroquette, Jane Seymour, Barrett Foa, John Glover, Tracie Bennett and Michael Learned; TV critic Leonard Maltin; writer-director-producer David Mamet and his wife, actress Rebecca Pidgeon; and CTG artistic director Michael Ritchie and his actress-wife Kate Burton of “Scandal” for the show.
The play: In the Los Angeles production, Lansbury reprises her role as the eccentric medium Madame Arcati, a part that nabbed her a Tony for the 2009 Broadway run. During a séance, in which Arcati communicates with the dead, she manages to conjure up the ghost of Elvira, the mischievous late wife of writer Charles Condomine, much to the chagrin of his living wife, Ruth.
The scene: Applause burst out as Lansbury, 89, entered the restaurant for the post-performance party. Guests gathered around to greet the television star, recipient of an honorary Oscar and five-time Tony Award winner. In the multi-level glass-enclosed environment, warmed by fire pits and lighted with strings of lights, guests partook of cocktails and hors d’oeuvres as they chatted with cast members, including two-time Tony-winning director Michael Blakemore and actors Charles Edwards, Jemima Rooper, Charlotte Parry, Susan Louise O’Connor, Simon Jones and Sandra Shipley.
Quote of note: On acting alongside Lansbury, leading man Edwards said, “What I love about seeing her in this particular role is that her Englishness comes to the fore and I can hear her use a voice I remember from movies when I was growing up.”
“She’s clearly enjoying herself in all of this,” added Edwards, who has also appeared in “Downton Abbey,” among other TV shows, as well as onstage.
Rooper, the show’s Elvira, called her role “incredible fun” and said of Lansbury, “I remember my very first day in London at rehearsals. I kept welling up when we did a read-through of the script, to suddenly hear [Lansbury] say things that reminded me of ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks,’ one of my all-time favorite films.”
The play is scheduled to continue at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles through Jan. 18 and then moves to San Francisco, Toronto and Washington, D.C. For tickets or additional information, look online at www.CenterTheatreGroup.org/tickets or call (213) 972-4400.
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