If ever there was a performer who fits the description "They get better with age", it would definately be the multi-talented Angela Lansbury. A part of the Hollywood scene since the 1940's Angela has proven time and time again what an outstanding actress she is in the dramatic, comic and musical genres . The hit TV series "Murder She Wrote", really cemented her mature stardom and this splendid musical Christmas movie "Mrs. Santa Claus" proved to be the ideal vehicle for her seasoned talents where we finally get a story that focuses on the real "power behind the throne" at the North Pole, none other than Mrs. Claus herself. This lavish Christmas movie is in all ways an absolute feast for the eyes with beautiful colour, a glowing leading lady ideally cast, lavish costumes and hearty musical numbers that bring to mind the great old Hollywood musicals of yesteryear. In short perfect entertainment for the festive season.
"Mrs. Santa Claus", opens in 1910 with the beginning of the busy build up to Christmas Eve but we find that all is not well in Santa's private nest. Mrs Claus feels left out of the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season and her husband is anything but the jolly old man beloved of children all over the world as he is neglectful of her needs at this time. When she proposes a new route for Santa to take on Christmas Eve that will considerably cut down his flying time her ideas are brushed off which inspires this spunky woman to take the sleigh complete with Santa's reindeers, and do a test run prior to Christmas Eve to check it out herself. Unfortunately caught in stormy conditions Mrs. Claus to forced to make an emergency landing in New York where Cupid injures one of his feet when landing. Stranded in New York Mrs. Claus, taking the name of, surprise "Mrs. North" makes the acquaintance of some very colourful characters in Avenue A. The residents that Mrs. Claus encounters include Marcello (David Norona in a terrific performance),the local stableboy who promises to try and nurse Cupid back to health within the week before Christmas and who helps the newly named "Mrs. North" find accomodation, feisty Sadie Lowenstein the young girl committed to obtaining the vote for women and who Marcello carries a torch for, Mrs. Lowenstein the nervy boarding house owner and concerned mother of Sadie, neglected waif Nora (Lynsey Bartilson) and nasty toy workhouse owner Augustus P. Tavish (Terence Mann in a scene stealing performance). Mrs Claus manages to bring a ray of happiness to all who encounter her and in between some wonderfully staged musical numbers the problems of the various residents of Avenue A are ironed out courtesy of the mysterious Mrs. North, and all before Christmas Eve! Among Mrs. Claus's stunning achievements are that she manages to teach the devilish Augustus P. Tavish a lesson about making inferior childrens toys and mistreating child labourers, manages to get Marcello and the hot headed Sadie to realise the love they really have for each other, reassures Mrs Lowenstein that America is a safe place to live and stays long enough to see the sad Nora reunited with her mother from Ireland. All climaxes at a beautiful Christmas Eve Policeman's Ball where the residents thank "Mrs. North", for the great difference she has made in all their lives by her warmth and understanding making Avenue A a better place to live in. After getting back just in time to the North Pole Mrs. Claus finally has her own reward when Santa realises how much he has missed her and realising how he has sadly taken her for granted for countless years decides to take her along with him on his rounds on Christmas Eve making it truly a "team effort".
Delightful is probably the best way to describe this Christmas movie. For a television movie it is incredibly lavish in its staging of the colossal musical numbers courtesy of the legendary Jerry Herman who was also a part of the staging of Angela Lansbury's Broadway triumphs. The film has the feel of those wonderful old MGM musicals about it with hundreds of extras displaying perfect dancing ( choreography by multi talented "Chicago" director Rob Marshall) in the beautiful settings of early 1900 New York. The stunning period costumes really add to the rich flavour of the piece and as mentioned by others Angela Lansbury has one of the most visually memorable outfits for the closing number designed especially for her by Emmy nominated Bob Mackie. If anything does stand out however it is the great musical numbers. Foremost is the refreshing "Avenue A" which is guaranteed to stay in your mind for ages so catchy are its lyrics. Equally memorable are the "Whistle" number and "Almost Young". It's rare nowadays for a television movie to boast it's own musical score and it's this feature that makes "Mrs. Santa Claus", such a joyous viewing experience for the whole family.
Angela Lansbury and Christmas in my book are a match made in heaven and as always the one time lovable television detective does not disappoint. Returning to her Broadway roots for this very showbizzy production Angela Lansbury is right at home and fills the screen with warmth, music and high spirits which are just the right combination for perfect Christmas viewing. The film's Old Hollywood feel will ensure "Mrs. Santa Claus", remains among the best holiday viewing in particular if you like music and great period flavour with your movie. Make sure you sit back during the next festive season and let Angela Lansbury wisk you away to another time and tell you all about Santa's unfairly forgotten wife and the time she had her own exciting Christmas adventure. You wont regret it.