By: Ellis Nassour
A galaxy of stars honored theater legend and five-time Tony winner Angela Lansbury at the Drama League benefit gala, A Musical Celebration of Broadway, Monday, February 8, at the Pierre Hotel.
Performing and paying tribute were James Barbour, Charles Busch, Ann Hampton Callaway, Len Cariou, Will Chase, Edie Falco, Beth Fowler, Victor Garber, Alexander Gemignani, Malcolm Gets, Dee Hoty, Cheyenne Jackson, Chad Kimball, Donna Murphy, Bernadette Peters, Christopher Sieber, Will Swenson, and, among others, Catherine Zeta-Jones.
There were surpries, too: 1966 Tony winner, Featured Actor, Frankie Michaels, young Patrick in Mame, his only listed Bway credit; and 1979 Theatre World Award winner Sarah Rice, Johanna in Sweeney Tood, her only listed Bway credit.
Callaway paid honor to Miss Lansbury with a tribute song composed on the spot with one-word descriptions of the star from attendees.
Jackson and Seiber reprised "Bosom Buddies" in tribute to Miss Lansbury and Mame co-star, the late Bea Arthur.
The evening began at 7 P.M. with cocktails and a silent auction/raffle in the hotel’s Cotillion Room. It was followed by and elaborate dinner in the grand ballroom. The tribute and entertainment portion of the gala included selections from Miss Lansbury’s prolific career, including Anyone Can Whistle, Mame, Dear World. Gypsy [revival], Sweeney Todd, Blithe Spirit revival, and the current revival of A Little Night Music in which Miss Lansbury co-stars opposite Zeta-Jones.
Drama League President Jano Herbosch announced there will be a salute to her long film career, which included many age-stretching characterizations. They included Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, for which she provided the voice of Mrs. Potts, and her celebrated long-run [1984-1996] as Jessica Fletcher on CBS/Universal’s Murder She Wrote TV series. Fans of Miss Lansbury will know that as a precursor to playing Ms. Fletcher in MSW, she portrayed Jane Marple in the 1980 film, The Mirror Crack’d.
Among her acclaimed film roles are the servant Nancy in Gaslight [her 1944 debut, opposite Charles Boyer, Ingrid Bergman, and Joseph Cotton]; Sibyl in The Picture of Dorian Gray; Em opposite Garland in The Harvey Girls; and her celebrated portrayal of sinister Mrs. Iselin in The Manchurian Candidate .
Miss Lansbury also appeared opposite June Allyson, Bette Davis, Jane Fonda, Kathryn Grayson, Katharine Helpburn, Lee Remick, Maureen Stapleton, Elizabeth Taylor, Esther Williams, and, among numerous others, Joanne Woodward. Male co-stars included Peter Finch, Anthony Franciosa, Laurence Harvey, Paul Newman, Christopher Plummer, Elvis Presley, Spencer Tracy, and, among numberous others, Orson Welles.
After 16 films as a major contract player at M-G-M, Miss Lansbury easily made the transition to the "Golden Era" of TV. She made her Broadway debut in 1957. For a complete listing of Miss Lanbury’s Broadway roles and awards/nominations, visit www.ibdb.com. For a complete listing of film and TV roles/appearances, visit www.imdb.com.
The DL entertainment program will be co-directed by Tony winner Michael Mayer [Spring Awakening] and Beatrice Terry [his SA associate director]Among the prizes for the auction were opening night tickets to Broadway’s upcoming, groundbreaking new musical by rock band Green Day, Mayer and Tom Kitt, American Idiot ; a backstage chat with Miss Lansbury following a performance of A Little Night Music; a watercolor portrait by two-time Tony, three-time Drama Desk, and Emmy winner John Lithgow, currently starring Off Bway in Mr. and Mrs. Fitch; and a California "Wine Lover’s Tour."
Founded in 1916, the Drama League funds artist education and audience development programs designed to strengthen and enhance professional theater in America. Through key programs, such as the Audience Project and the Directors Project, the org annually serves 100,000 theatergoers, artists, industry professionals, and students.
For More Photos from this event see Gordin’s View: Drama League Gala on side bar at left
Photography By Barry Gordin