Parties: Everything but the ghoul

Somewhat fitting that after Maureen Lipman's character, Madame Armfeldt, dies peacefully at the end of the opening night of Trevor Nunn's West End production of Sondheim's A Little Night Music, guests should be transported to the 18th-century crypt of St Martin-in-the-Fields to kick off the after-party.

Guests milled around in the twilight – the crypt's vaulted ceilings dimly lit only by church candles – discussing the merits of Sondheim's score, Trevor Nunn's direction and Lipman's cutting wit. "Great on the page, even better on stage," reckoned the impressionist Alistair McGowan, as he eyed up the chocolate fountain in one corner. "The best of all his plays," cooed the magician Derren Brown, before darting back into the shadows to chat with fellow guests. The play's first night at a fresh venue appeared a success.

Back from the dead, Lipman flashed a strapless gingham frock from beneath her electric-blue satin jacket. "I thought I'd let it all hang out tonight,' she declared, proving that maturity equals vivacity.

Lipman lookalike (and fan) Connie Fisher closed in on her spirited comedic idol to swap a few words, before reuniting with her Sound of Music chum (and Maureen's new play mate) Alexander Hanson.

Meanwhile, over in the corner, Mrs Lipman's scriptwriter daughter, Amy, was overheard grieving that: "It's horrible watching mum die on stage." Unfortunately for her, with the triumph of the show at the Garrick, it looks as though her mother will have to continue croaking it for some time yet.

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