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Previewed 12 September 2003, Opened 15 September 2003, Closed 18 October 2003 at the Savoy Theatre in London
Bea Arthur, known the world over as the gravel-voiced star of The Golden Girls, makes her West End stage debut at the ripe old age of 80.
The show takes an acerbic view of life, shot through with several musical numbers. Bea Arthur has made many television series, including seven seasons of The Golden Girls from 1986 to 1992, and several television specials, including The Beatrice Arthur Special in 1980. Her hugely varied stage career includes starring opposite Angela Lansbury in the original Broadway production of Mame in 1966. As Bea Arthur herself puts it "My training has been total. I've done everything except rodeos and porn." However, little does she know what's around the corner... !
Bea Arthur will be accompanied at the piano by her musical director Billy Goldenberg, the multi award winning composer of the musical Ballroom. The show was created by Bea and Billy in collaboration with Charles Randolf Wright with production consultants Mark Waldrop and Richard Maltby Jr.
"This feels like an odd case of deja vu. It is not so many months since Elaine Stritch, that tall, gruff and opinionated grande dame of Broadway, held court in London. Now comes a one-woman show with Bea Arthur , an actress who is every bit as opinionated, looks even taller and has a voice that makes Bogart sound like a sissy... Arthur has had a distinguished career in her own right - she was the original Yente the matchmaker in Fiddler On The Roof - but her script is more lightweight. It still makes for an amiable entertainment, peppered with theatrical in-jokes and droll gossip. But grand passions and soul-searching are missing... Billy Goldenberg turns in an understated display as her mildly harassed accompanist." The Times
"Unusually for someone who has spent more than half a century in showbiz, Arthur, who looks at least a decade younger than her 80 years, seems remarkably sane. There is a genuine, generous warmth about her, little sense of a voracious ego in overdrive. This is not, however, to suggest that the show is bland. Arthur is no slouch when it comes to a bit of sauce on the side. There is real pleasure in hearing this trim, silver-haired old dear singing a bawdy Sophie Tucker song which suggests that a vigorous sex life is the best way to maintain perfect health... It can't be said that Arthur's singing voice is an instrument of great beauty and range, but it functions pretty well within its limits. And her choice of songs... is delightful. I also adored Arthur's stooped and ancient pianist, Billy Goldenberg, who quite evidently worships her and bears an uncanny resemblance to a wise and benign old tortoise." The Daily Telegraph
"The real question is: who is the audience for this curious little show, the latest from a line of gravely-voiced American actresses who could be leading nice quiet lives in rest homes but instead seem determined to sock it to us one more time?... Bea Arthur seems like a perfectly nice woman in that astringent American showbiz tradition, and it takes guts to stand up there and do what she does. She also has an amusingly eccentric choice of songs from What Can You Get a Nudist for Her Birthday? to You've Got to be Loved to be Healthy, a piece of advice that could save the NHS millions. But many of the jokes, anecdotes (and, I am afraid to say, recipes) are old hat, and unless you are already a fan Arthur simply doesn't do enough to be worth an investment of your time and money." The Guardian
"Bea Arthur, who is presenting a solo show at the Savoy, is as tough as an old boot, and considerably more entertaining. A tall, deep-voiced octogenarian, she is best known in this country for her role in the television series Golden Girls. Fans who go to the Savoy hoping to hear about that show will be disappointed, but she tells some agreeably caustic stories about other aspects of her career. She also sings, with a verve which makes up for a certain croakiness, and with able support from her harassed but stoical accompanist, Billy Goldenberg." The Sunday Telegraph
Bea Arthur in London at the Savoy previewed from 12 September 2003, opened on 15 September 2003 and closed on 18 October 2003.