Angela Lansbury Receives Standing Ovation at 'Grey Gardens,' and She's Not Even in the Show

Angela Lansbury Grey Gardens The Musical - Getty - H 2016
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Angela Lansbury Grey Gardens The Musical - Getty - H 2016

Angela Lansbury got a standing ovation on July 13 at the opening night of the Grey Gardens musical at CTG/Ahmanson Theatre in downtown Los Angeles for doing…absolutely nothing.

The theater played an old voice-over featuring Lansbury (recorded in 2014 when she starred in the venue's Blithe Spirit) delivering pre-show announcements about cell phones and candy wrappers. After hearing her own voice, an experience she called a "complete surprise," Lansbury stood up and waved to the crowd. That incited the applause.

The 90-year-old actress tells The Hollywood Reporter that it was the first time in her career she'd ever received such a rousing reception at a production she had nothing to do with. "I thought, 'I know that voice,' " she laughs of the recording, which a rep for the theater tells THR is used on a "selective" basis. "I assumed they continued using it, but I wasn't sure."

She then used her voice to slam L.A. traffic, saying it's keeps many Westsiders (like herself) from heading downtown for big shows such as Grey Gardens.

"Coming to the theater is a day's work," she says. "It's a terrible drawback for people." So what about L.A.'s new light-rail Expo Line? "That's a good idea. If I had to do it on a regular basis, I would take the train."

She may have some opportunities to take the train when she heads back to New York next year to star on Broadway in Enid Bagnold's The Chalk Garden, produced by Scott Rudin. "It's absolutely fascinating," she says of the story, which was also made into a 1964 film. "There are some wonderful roles in it and it has a wonderful mystery to it. Although I have nothing to do with the mystery, but I participate in it unwittingly." 

Lansbury did participate when THR asked for her reaction of Grey Gardens at intermission. "It's a magnificently mounted production that is beautifully sung and acted by the cast," she says of the show, toplined by Rachel York and Betty Buckley and directed by Michael Wilson. "I've never seen it in this form before so it's completely original to me. It's quite lovely in what it says."

Grey Gardens runs through Aug. 14.