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Still spellbinding at 88

Angela Lansbury has British critics spellbound with her performance as a dotty mystic in “Blithe Spirit” on the London stage.

The 88-year-old actress is appearing in the West End for the first time in almost 40 years as medium Madame Arcati in Noel Coward’s supernatural farce. She won a Tony for the role on Broadway in 2009.

The Daily Telegraph’s Charles Spencer praised Lansbury’s “astonishing energy and comic panache” in the production, directed by 85-year-old Michael Blakemore. In Wednesday’s Times of London, Dominic Maxwell said Lansbury’s “amazing precision and vim” were “a master-class in character comedy.”

Return of R2-D2

The new “Star Wars” has an official timeline and one confirmed returning character: robot R2-D2.

Director J.J. Abrams will begin shooting in May on “Star Wars: Episode VII,” which is set three decades after 1983’s “Return of the Jedi,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said Tuesday.

Speaking at the company’s annual shareholder’s meeting in Portland, Ore., Iger said the movie would feature “some very familiar faces along with a trio of new, young leads.” Abrams has a penchant for secrecy, and Iger said R2-D2 was the only “official cast member” he would announce.

“Episode VII” is set for release in December 2015. Iger also said Pixar plans a third “Cars” movie and a sequel to 2004’s “The Incredibles.”

Working overtime

Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda will be clocking in together once again.

The actresses, who co-starred in the classic 1980 workplace comedy “9 to 5,” will team up again in “Grace and Frankie,” a new single-camera sitcom for Netflix. The series also boasts a creative team that includes Howard J. Morris, writer and producer of “Sullivan & Son,” and Marta Kauffman, co-creator of a little show known as “Friends” as well as “Dream On,” an early original series on HBO.

Through 13 half-hour episodes, “Grace and Frankie” will explore the relationship between two women in their twilight years, Grace (Fonda) and Frankie (Tomlin).

Longtime rivals, they are unexpectedly brought together when their husbands declare their love for each other and announce plans to get married.

No papal blessing for ‘Noah’

Actor Russell Crowe and the makers of the big-budget film “Noah” attended Pope Francis’ general audience Wednesday but didn’t get what they most wanted: a papal meeting and photo-op.

Crowe had lobbied hard for a papal thumbs-up for his film and the ensuing publicity a Francis blessing would bring. The film has been banned in much of the Muslim world because of its depiction of the prophet, while U.S. conservatives have complained it took liberties with the biblical account of the flood.

The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the request from Noah’s producers for a private audience was immediately turned down.

Lombardi said there was similarly no scheduled “meet and greet” after Wednesday’s general audience.

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