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Blithe Spirit is a theatrical comedy penned for the stage by renowned English playwright Noël Coward. Since its premier in the early 1940s, the play has gone on to become one of the biggest early 20th century theatrical successes in both England and America. Featuring Coward’s signature style of over-the-top and gaudy humor, the play has also been a favorite among critics, through the decades. Blithe Spirit’s success allowed it to be adapted into other forms of entertainment, such as a film, radio and even a stage musical. The original play itself has been revived many times and is currently scheduled for yet another one on Broadway, much to the delight of fans. With such a high profile, Blithe Spirit tickets for this upcoming production are sure to be among the year’s hottest entertainment commodities.
The story of Blithe Spirit concerns a successful writer named Charles Condomine. He chooses the supernatural as the subject matter for his next novel and enlists the help of Madame Arcati, a strange woman who claims to be a medium. The plot begins to unfold after Arcati summons the spirit of Charles’ ex-wife, Elvira, at a séance in his house. Unpleased with the fact that her former husband has married another woman – named Ruth - Elvira begins to haunt and terrorize the couple. Over the course of the play, an outrageous series of events drives Charles up the wall and against it. With help from Madame Arcati, he tries to escape with both his life and his sanity intact, but it proves less than simple.
Envisioning it as a comedy, Noël Coward wrote the play – the name of which was inspired from a line in the poem To a Skylark by Percy Bysshe Shelley - while on a holiday in Wales. At the time, Britain was being bombarded heavily by the Germans and Coward wanted to give audiences something light and entertaining to help them escape the everyday grim realities of the Second World War.
The first production of Blithe Spirit was assembled in 1941 and had its public debut at the Manchester Opera House. The following month, it moved to the West End, where it staged almost two thousand performances, a record that wasn’t broken until 1957. Blithe Spirit was an instant success and broke all British box-office records. This was thanks in no small part to the fact that the story resonated with a lot of people, as many who had lost loved ones during the war were increasingly turning to spiritualism.
Critical response to the play was reserved at first due to what was perceived as an insensitive treatment of the subject of death. However, this was a minority view and many observers praised Blithe Spirit for its humor and for Coward’s trademark tropes, such as the main character sneaking across the stage at the end of the play. In fact, the production was so successful that, after only a few short months, Blithe Spirit premiered on Broadway. With a cast that featured the likes of Leonora Corbett, Mildred Natwick, Clifton Webb and Peggy Wood, Blithe Spirit was very successful in America as well.
Over the past few decades, Blithe Spirit has continued to be popular in one way or another. During this time, the play was adapted into a feature-length film, starring Rex Harrison, Margaret Rutherford, Constance Cummings and Kay Hammond. While only moderately successful, the film has since gone on to be renowned for its use of in-camera special effects, which were very innovative for its time and helped it to win an Oscar for Best Visual Effects. Blithe Spirit was also turned into a musical in 1964, called High Spirits, featuring music and lyrics by Hugh Martin and Timothy Gray. The show boasted a stellar cast of seasoned performers and was nominated for as many as eight Tony Awards.
The original play itself has been revived numerous times, both in its native U.K as well as on Broadway. Notable among these were the ones in 1970, 1976 and 1986 at the West End. The play’s many revivals in the U.S have been particularly successful. The one in 1987 helped Geraldine Page win a Tony Award for Best Actress for her performance as Madame Arcati. The 2009 Broadway reproduction was similarly acclaimed and won the Drama League Award for Distinguished Revival of a Play.
Blithe Spirit is now set for yet another revival that is sure to have fans rushing to the theatre. These enthusiasts can now get their Blithe Spirit tickets, which are currently up for grabs.
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