Dame Angela enjoys West End return
Dame Angela Lansbury entranced the audience with her performance as clairvoyant Madame Arcati at the opening night of Blithe Spirit tonight.
The Murder, She Wrote star has returned to the London stage for the first time in almost 40 years, reprising the role which won her a Tony award on Broadway, in the Noel Coward comedy at the Gielgud Theatre in the West End.
Blithe Spirit tells the story of a novelist, played by Downton Abbey's Charles Edwards, who invites a clairvoyant to his house for a seance, only for her to summon the ghost of his dead wife Elvira, played by Atlantis actress Jemima Rooper, much to the horror of his new wife, played by Janie Dee.
Dame Angela, 88, said: "I've played in London before, including big musicals, Gypsy at the Piccadilly Theatre, so being back in London felt very natural and terrific.
"I feel the British people know me so well through movies and the television and so I feel very at home here."
The performance received a roaring standing ovation.
Dame Angela said: "That really is the cherry on the cake and it is a lovely feeling to know that people genuinely enjoyed themselves and enjoyed the fun of the show.
"To be able to entertain people is one of the great pluses of being an actor. To be able to pluck people out of their mundane daily lives is lovely."
But the actress admitted she does not believe in the supernatural herself.
She confessed: "I have never experienced it personally, but I'm often hearing things that have rocked my boat a little.
"But nothing has been really proven to be supernatural, so I don't really know and I think it's our imagination."
Guests in the audience included Elaine Paige, Christopher Biggins and Sue Pollard.
The Gielgud Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue has a special significance for Dame Angela, whose last London stage performance was in Hamlet at the National Theatre in 1975, as i t was where her mother, actress Moyna MacGill, made her stage debut in 1918.
Dame Angela, who was born in Poplar, east London, but moved to the US during the Second World War, is known to millions as the sleuth Jessica Fletcher in Murder, She Wrote and has appeared in countless films including Bedknobs And Broomsticks and The Manchurian Candidate.