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November 20, 1991 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 1991-11-20

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ARTS
The Michigan Daily Wednesday, November 20,1991 Page 5

From Bedknob
to The Beast
Classy Angela Lansbury proves
she is much more than Murder

by Michael John Wilson
O RLANDO -- I was ignorant of
Angela Lansbury's greatness until I
met her a few weeks ago. If you're as
young and oblivious as I was, you're
thinking, yeah, big deal, she's that
Mrs. Fletcher on Murder, She
Wrote. But even after 47 years in
show business, Lansbury is probably
the classiest, friendliest, most hard-
working and, above all, most real
person I met during a series of in-
terviews promoting Beauty and the
Beast, Disney's latest animated mu-
sical, to be released this Friday.
Dressed in all white on that Sat-
urday morning, there was something
very comforting and reassuring
about Lansbury's presence. There
was no trace of the plastic Holly-
wood talk-show front that so many
other actors put on during inter-
views. Lansbury was far above that
-just very honest, very real.
Speaking of Beauty and the Beast
with her London accent, Lansbury
even made hype sound respectable:
"I almost hate to say this, but I
think that Disney is now producing
the equivalent of the Broadway mu-
sical.... They're the best music and
lyrics that we're seeing. We're not
seeing anything like this on Broad-
way." From anyone else, such talk
would sound like vacuous promo-
tion, but when four-time Tony
award winner Lansbury says it, you
have to believe her.
She was also a bit surprised by
Disney's promotional assault: "I
loved the idea of doing the part, but
I didn't realize that there'd be all
this baggage with it ... sitting
around at Disney World talking
about the character of 'Mrs. Potts.'
Let's face it, it's a minute part, ex-
cept that it also involves singing
just a lovely ballad called 'Beauty
and the Beast,' which I was very
fearful (of singing) in the first
place ."
Despite her fears, in Beauty
Lansbury aptly provides the voice of
Mrs. Potts, a motherly housekeeper
transmogrified into a teapot. The

teapot spends much of her time
looking after her frisky children,
who are, of course, teacups. While
the filmmakers demonstrate the
true magic of animation by creating
lovable ceramic characters, Lans-
bury's casting is perfect. Infused
into an animated drawing, the reas-
suring, maternal feeling that I
sensed when she sat at my table
truly gives life to the drawing of a
teapot.
Though not a characteristic role
for Lansbury, Mrs. Potts is not
completely new to her. She said she
drew on several previous parts for
the voice: "I thought a lot about
(the role of) Mrs. Bridges, in Up-
stairs, Downstairs. I thought, that's
Mrs. Potts. Also some bits of Nel-
lie Lovett from (the Broadway mu-
sical) Sweeney Todd, and also a
housekeeper we had when I was a
child ... I could just see her, you
know? This is the thing about actors
and actresses - when you're doing a
role, you kind of see that person and
you become that person. Somebody
said acting is 'living truthfully un-
der imaginary circumstances,' and
that's just about what it all boils
down to."
But until recently, Lansbury was
known for her supporting character
parts as bitchy, domineering older
women. Her first film was Gaslight
(1944); her role as a housekeeper
won her an Oscar nomination. After
another nomination for The Picture
of Dorian Gray (1945), Lansbury
remained a respected character actor,
but only became a true star after her
Broadway hits such as Mame (1966)
and Sweeney Todd (1979). Other
good Lansbury films include The
Dark at the Top of the Stairs,
Capra's State of the Union, The
Long, Hlot Summer and, of course,
Bedknobs and Broomsticks.
Lansbury received her third Os-
car nomination for her greatest film
role in The Manchurian Candidate
(1962), where we see her maternal
side gone to a chilling extreme.
Playing Laurence Harvey's devious
mother, Lansbury was only three

I'm a little teapot,
short and stout ..
Angela Lansbury's career has
been long and interesting,
ranging from The Manchurian
Candidate to Murder, She
Wrote. However, the versatile
actor still expresses a wish to
make "a big movie," as in a
Pretty Ghost Alone blockbuster.
For now, her fans will have to
settle for Disney's latest
animated epic, Beauty and the
Beast, in which Lansbury
(pictured at right) provides the
voice for the lovable Mrs. Potts
(pictured above). The
resemblance is eerie, isn't it?
years older than Harvey in real life.
Mimicking a gruff voice, she
recalled director John Franken-
heimer telling her that it was "the
greatest part ever written for a
woman."
But after four Tony awards,
three Oscar Nominations and a long-
running TV show, what's left?
"There's one thing I want to do,"
Lansbury said. "I really want to
make one landmark blockbuster
movie. I haven't done that yet. Yes, a
movie of the year, yes, that's what I
want to do....
"It's wonderful to have a career
which has included so many differ-
ent facets in show business. ... I've
done it all in a sense, but I've never
had a big movie, and I want that, be-

Grapes of Wrath
These Days
Capitol
Ever since its 1987 release, Tree-
House, Canada's Grapes of Wrath
has displayed an ability to balance
rock and folk influences. It pays an
overwhelming debt to post-'65 Bea-
tles (especially songs such as
"Norwegian Wood" and "Rain").
These Days continues in this vein
with its melodic mix of acoustic
and electric guitars, Hammond or-
gan and piano, as well as its gripping
harmonies that get their strength
from vocalist Kevin Kane's piercing
singing.
The mostly mid-tempo tracks
unevenly convey Grapes of Wrath's
songwriting maturity. The songs
focus on being away from home -
on the road in a band - and the
effects that this lifestyle has on
marriages. The regret expressed
throughout the album is delicately
complemented by the depth of the
background music, and is further
garnished by tambourines, mouth
organs and the occasional use of
pedal steel guitar. The problem
comes when the songs, especially on
side two, sound somewhat similar
in execution and melodies. This
flaw doesn't ruin an otherwise vir-
ile album, but merely detracts from
its potential perfection.
Cuts like "Away," "You May
Be Right" and "Days," and, to a
lesser degree, "I Am Here" and
"Travelin'," wistfully express
doubt and insecurity in a '90s ver-
sion of the musical experimenta-
tions of the late '60s and early '70s
bands like the Byrds. To label
Grapes of Wrath as retro would dis-
count the band's originality. The
music is middle-of-the-road alterna-
tive, not unlike R.E.M. in attitude.
It realizes its potential and exploits
it to the fullest. It's a snapshot of
life at age 25.
- Annette Petruso

sufficiently) - from start to
finish.
The '40s-style "When I First
Kissed You" is the album's most
surprising track. Cherone delivers
alongside sparse plodding piano and
a bold bass in Frank Sinatra fashion.
His voice is utterly sassy. The song
heightens into a whirl of fantastic
scene setting orchestration, and the
track ends with the sound of a nee-
dle spinning on a record, just to give
it a touch of the era.
Extreme falls short on the heav-
ier tracks, where the band just can't
seem to get the combinations of ly-
rics and music to mesh. Cuts like
"Money (In God We Trust)," "It
('S A Monster)," "Li'l Jack Hor-
ny" and "When I'm President"
seem rather random. The music and
lyrics for any of these songs could
almost be interchanged without al-
tering the impact of the song.
The lyrics, however, with the
plays on words and the silliness
they contain, are successful in
showing off the band's fun side. On
"When I'm President," Cherone
raps, "I remember it well/ I was
just about three/ My Dad said, 'Son/
what do you want to be?'/ It didn't
ring no bells/ But I said, 'Daddy, I'm
a bit too young/ what do you want
from me?"'
Nonetheless, without these
tracks, Pornograffitti would be near-
ly flawless. (And, without these
tracks, there are still nine from
which to choose.) The lone weak
point I can cite on the remainder of
the album is the chorus of the title
track, which is the only time that
the harmony of Badger, Bettencourt,

Theater review
Largo frees oppressed audiences

cause that's what I went to MGM
(in 1944) to do. I started off big,
was very lucky, two wonderful
roles, two Academy Award nomi-
nations ... but I never realized my
potential as a movie actress. Never. I
was never given that opportunity...
and Beauty and the Beast isn't it."
When the right script does come
along, Lansbury is set to produce it,
having established a family produc-
tion company (Corymore Produc-
tions) to develop projects for her.
Until then, she'll continue doing
TV and anything else she can find.
"Work agrees with me. I think I'm a
bit of a workaholic," Lansbury ad-
mitted. And though finding a
vehicle for a 66-year-old actor will
be tough, she's confident about the
prospects. "It will be there," she
said. "I'm sure it's hanging around
somewhere waiting to be picked up
... I just have to keep myself ready. I
feel great."
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST opens
Friday at Showcase.
CHANNEL Z
Moronic local television alert:
Bonds on ... Nice Guys (9:30 p.m.,
Channel 7 Detroit), a true meeting
of the minds, features everybody's
favorite toup6ed anchor (and a
heckuva nice guy, we might add)
talking at really nice comedian Tim
Allen and even nicer football star
Barry Sanders. What a nice concept.
If you're not so nice, you might
want to check out Detroit Channel
20's nightly Slime-O-Rama: Love
Connection (11:30 p.m.), Studs
(midnight), People's Court (12:30
a.m.) and The Judge (1 am.).

Extreme
Extreme!!
A&M

Extreme is more than "More
Than Words." With its most recent
release, Pornograffitti, this quartet
out of Boston has hit on a rather
unique sound. Nuno Bettencourt
more than lives up to his reputation
on guitar, and Pat Badger (bass) and
Paul Geary (drums) combine to
drive home the groove. Lead vocalist
Gary Cherone smooths it over or
cuts it up, depending on the need.I
The quartet is a recipe for divinity.
There's no denying that Extreme
has mastered the art of the love
song. The genre reappears at steady
intervals on this album, in different
forms, yet its always right on.
"Song For Love," which has re-
ceived considerable airplay, is per-
haps exemplary as the quintessen-
tial love anthem. Universal and
dramatic, the lyrics and the music
are fluid - necessarily (and
THAEAT LIBERTY 7614070
T 0 AE.ATUE DAILYSHOWSBEFORE6PM
BI ALLDAYTUESDAY* *e;Iorn

Bettencourt

Pornograffitti

Largo Desolato
The Performance Network
November 16, 1991
You don't have to have been repressed by a totali-
tarian government to relate to the anxiety Professor
Leopold Nettles (Troy Sills) feels in Largo Desolato,
currently showing at the Performance Network. If
you've been so much as severely constipated, you can
surely sympathize with Nettles' plight.
As a free thinking philosopher in a repressive
country, Nettles stands as both a leader for the re-
pressed common person and a victim of the govern-
ment's harassment - he is trapped in his apartment for
fear they may at any time take him away to prison on
charges of "intellectual hooliganism." While carrying
a frightening political message, Largo maintains a
poignantly human feel in its continuous flow of subtle
and hilarious wit and in its profound communication of
the general anxiety of living.
The play consists of a series of encounters between
Nettles and the supporting characters. Sills is fantas-
tically convincing in Nettles' complicated role. The
dry humor, the vacillation and self-doubt, and the ag-
onizing frustration under political torture and inter-
personal strains is all captured in Sills' performance.
We even forget that Sills is much younger than the

older man he portrays.
The supporting cast of friends and governmental
interrogators, all of whom continually make demands
on Nettles, uniformly conveys the dual humor and
tension of the play in genuine performances. Nettles'
friend Bertram (David Wilcox, who later reappears as
one of two government agents), the kind of character
you might expect to have bad breath, is one of the pack
of devotees who hound Nettles with expectations and
criticisms. Wilcox's timing and subtle understanding
of his comic roles plays excellent foil to Sills'
Nettles. "You don't doubt that we all like you?"
Bertram screams repeatedly during a tirade against
Nettles' inactivity.
Mill workers Sidney and Sidney (Jonathan A.
Smeenge and Ron Miller) present a kind of wacked out
combination of Newhart's "brother Daryl and other
brother Daryl" with Estragon and Vladimir from
Beckett's Waiting for Godot. The pair eventually takes
over Nettles' apartment with gifts of boxed paper.
Vaclav Havel's script is a sure winner, as an engag-
ing political and philosophical treatise, as excellent
farce, and as a portrait of feelings of existential angst;
and director Philip Kerr collaborates with a
professional cast to capitalize on all of the script's
strengths - its dramatic tension and its subtle humor.
-Austin Ratner

Geary and Cherone is anything other
than magnificent.
Extreme redoes old ideas in new
ways; the result falls short of inno-
vation, but it is definitely different.
It's often difficult to tell if the
band is being serious or sarcastic.
But, regardless, Pornograffitti offers
more than a mouthful to chew on,
dance with, laugh about or kiss to.
-Kim Yaged

U,,,11,
ActvwUry

an aspirng singer?
dancer?
comedian?
film/video maker?
actor/writer?
whatever?

MDENT WITH [. m83D

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Audition for Starbound, U of M's
annual talent competition on Dec. 4,
5, &7.
Sign up at UAC, 2105 Union, or
call 763-1107 for info
Starbound Auditions

'I

L 1e', L
E U
E B

UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
MEN'S GLEE CLUB
Jerry Blackstone, conductor
and the
OHIO STATE UNIVERSITY
MEN'S GLEE CLUB

!Tit Ekl

_I

James Gallagher, conductor

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