To some, she might be Jessica Fletcher, Mrs. Lovett or Eleanor Shaw Iselin, but to those of us growing up in 1991, captivated by a mysterious castle full of enchanted objects, Angela Lansbury will always be Mrs. Potts. Now, on the 25th anniversary of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, the 90-year-old acting legend is returning to the timeless role with a moving rendition of the classic film’s title song— and it’s making all of us feel like kids again.
My own love for Beauty and the Beast runs deep, and it has since I was an impressionable six-year-old in the movie theater swept away by the romantic story, beautiful animation, and unforgettable songs. Like so many others of my generation, even as I grew “too old” to love – or to admit to loving – an animated movie as much as I did, it stayed with me— a hopeful reminder, embedded deep in a sweet childhood memory, that even the most bookish girls and awkward guys could, indeed, find love. To hear the Academy-Award-winning title song sung fresh after all these years, sung by Mrs. Potts herself, is to reconnect with that inner child all over again. It’s also just a really, really note-perfect and pretty rendition. No wonder you can hear sniffling in the audience.
Watch this video of Lansbury’s lovely performance, from The Today Show, to experience it yourself, then read on for more background on the legendary actress and how this gift of a moment came to be.
Lansbury performed “Beauty and the Beast” on stage at Alice Tully Hall in Lincoln Center as part of a celebration of the movie’s 25th anniversary celebration, accompanied by composer Alan Menken on piano. Her appearance was a surprise to the audience, who had gathered for a special screening of Disney’s 30th feature animated film and erupt into an enthusiastic standing ovation after she finishes. It’s no wonder, of course – even after two-and-a-half decades, Lansbury still sings the gentle, romantic song like no other – but it likely came as a relief to the singer herself, who expressed nervousness about returning to a song that holds such a special place in people’s hearts after so many years. In an interview with BroadwayWorld.com, she says,
Well, it was a huge surprise to be quite honest with you. I really have no idea there would be the rapturous applause of this huge audience at Alice Tully Hall. So many little children, little babies in the front row, you know, who chatted and kind of went on throughout the entire program after the movie finished. It was so intimate and it was like an enormous family affair. It was just marvelous and I just kind of allowed myself to enter into that spirit and in that way I was able to do what was required. It was quite extraordinary [. . .] Well, I have to say it was the sort of original emotion that really took be through that. I wasn’t sort of prepared for being the dramatic aspect of doing it under no circumstances with Alan Menken at the piano and this wonderful audience. So, I was pretty nervous. You know, one does ones best and you think ‘Oh gosh I could’ve done so much better.’ Here we were all these years later reenacting a moment in the movie and you know, working with an audience that have loved this for years. So, it was quite exciting and I was kind of shaken by the whole business.
Lansbury’s reaction to returning to “Beauty and the Beast” – which accompanies the iconic “ballroom scene” in the movie, one of the earliest uses of combined hand-drawn and computer-generated animation in a film – isn’t surprising to anybody who knows the history of her relationship to the song. When Menken and the film’s lyricist, the late Howard Ashman, first approached her with the idea of singing the song, Lansbury tried to turn it down, believing that another member of the cast would be better suited and that her voice was all wrong for a ballad. The song-writing pair persuaded her to give it a try, and the result is the gorgeous, timeless scene we all know and love.
Oh, and she recorded it in one take.
Did seeing Angela Lansbury perform this song again touch your heart? What’s your favorite Disney movie? Watch another video of her performance paired with the original scene from the movie, and tell us what you think!