As an Anglophile of an American, I have this idea that British actors can do anything. They move gracefully from genre to genre. I wouldn't be surprised if they're raised on a steady diet of Shakespeare, with training commencing around the time that they learn to walk. And on my list of insanely adaptable British actors is Emma Thompson, who plays the motherly Mrs. Potts in the new Beauty & The Beast. The two-time Oscar winner is an accomplished writer and director on top of being an acclaimed performer. And with her role as the cursed teapot, Thompson is showing fans a side of her that they may not have heard before. Emma Thompson sings in Beauty & The Beast, but the remake is not her first musical — or even her first Disney musical!
If it were, it would have been an intimidating way to start. After all, it's Mrs. Potts who serenades the unlikely couple when they have their private dance in the ballroom. Sung by Angela Lansbury in the 1991 animated film, "Beauty & The Beast" won the Oscar for Best Original Song. The 2017 live-action movie had a lot to live up to in general, but that dance is a classic scene, not just in the history of animation but in the history of film.
No sweat for Thompson, however, who has sung on film, on stage, and in recordings before. Here are a few of her musical greatest hits.
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street
In 2014, Emma Thompson starred in a New York City production of the 1979 Stephen Sondheim horror-musical, a taping of which was broadcast on PBS. Thompson was a hit as Mrs. Lovett, the struggling and lovesick pie shop owner who provides the titular vengeful barber with a convenient method of disposing of the meat of the victims. The star of the original Broadway production was none other than her Mrs. Potts predecessor, Angela Lansbury.
Here's Thompson singing (and tapping!) with her ex-husband Kenneth Branagh in an episode of her self-titled and short-lived sketch series back in 1988. Which begs the question: why has this woman never hosted Saturday Night Live?
Thompson voiced Merida's mother Elinor in the 2012 Scottish Pixar adventure tale, Brave. You can hear her in the movie and on the soundtrack, including this Scottish Gaelic lullaby that Merida remembers her mother singing to her when she was a small child.
Saving Mr. Banks
Thompson played P.L. Travers, the strong-willed author of the Mary Poppins books, in the 2013 Disney biopic Saving Mr. Banks. The movie follows Walt Disney's attempt to adapt the books into a musical movie, with Travers questioning, fighting, and sticking up for her characters along the way. Of course, the movie did get made and produced some timeless Disney songs, a few of which Thompson sings with her costars on the Saving Mr. Banks soundtrack.
Emma Thompson's musical talent is well documented, but now she can add "singing china" to her resume.