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Still wowin’ and wooin’: 40 years later, film star Ann-Margret performs for Reagle Players

What does the most popular, sexiest movie star of the 1960s get for a Valentine’s Day gift?
In the midst of a Feb. 14 phone interview, Ann-Margret received a pajama-gram from her longtime husband Roger Smith. After lots of oohing and ahing, the celluloid siren of the ’60s described the jammies as white flannel, with red trim, collar and cuffs, two little pockets in front, and at least 50 red hearts sporting devil’s tails with the words "Devilicious." Probably not too different from what she received in 1966, although back then maybe there was a little less flannel and a little more lace.

Ann-Margret, who dropped her Swedish family name "Olsson" when she started performing at the age of 19 to protect her parents from any bad reviews, will be performing "Here! Now! Ann-Margret and Company" at the Reagle Players’ Robinson Theatre in Waltham Feb. 24 to 26. The company for the song and dance show includes three male dancers and seven musicians, and the show is choreographed by Alan Johnson, who worked with her 30 years ago.
When George Burns hired the young Ann-Margret for his Las Vegas stage show, her career took off. After playing opposite Elvis Presley in "Viva Las Vegas," the two were romantically attached for a year. Her work in "Carnal Knowledge" and "Tommy" garnered her two Academy Award nominations and brought new respect for her acting abilities.
She won’t be riding a motorcycle on the Robinson stage as she did in her first Las Vegas show in 1967. But at age 64, she still rides bikes. Her latest machine is a big, lavender-colored Harley-Davidson with daisies running through the white logo.
"It’s a real girls’ bike," said Ann-Margret. "It’s a Hugger," a model that’s a little closer to the ground.
She hasn’t lost her passion for riding her bike fast, either. "It drives Roger crazy and makes him nervous," she said. He rides a camel and black soft-tail Harley that looks retro but actually has suspension.
There may not be any bikes on the stage, but there promises to be some sizzle with her trademark feline moves.
"I love cats," she said. "I sneak around in the show." As she spoke, she teased her 1-year-old kitten, appropriately named "Harley," as he climbed into the box with the new pajamas. "You like those, don’t you?" she said. "Well, they’re not your size."
The Waltham audience will be the first to see her brand-new show. She originally planned to add two new numbers to material she had been using, but as she worked on the show, she replaced all the numbers except for two. She will be singing a movie medley from her hits "Tommy," "Viva Las Vegas" and "Bye Bye Birdie." And she’ll sing a Dixieland tribute to New Orleans, poignantly titled "Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans?"

"Every show that I do, I give the very best I possibly can," she said. "All my life I’ve wanted to be an entertainer, ever since I was 4. It’s my joy to be on stage."
She’s just finished filming "Santa Claus 3," in the role of Santa-Claus’ mother-in-law, opposite Alan Arkin. Tim Allen, Martin Short, Peter Boyle and Kevin Pollack are also in the film.
"I’m surrounded by comics," she said with delight. "It’s so much fun to go to work and be surrounded by snow, even if it’s Hollywood snow. And everyday was Christmas, my favorite season."
She was delighted to hear that Boston still has snow. "I want to see the snow and make a snow angel," she said. Not too surprising for a woman who spent the first six years of her life in Valsjobyn, Sweden, a tiny village not far from the Arctic Circle.
Since her mother’s death four years ago, her husband has taken over the task of delivering the three Swedish good-luck kicks, known as "Tre Sparkar," that she insists on receiving before each performance.
He’ll be in Waltham to give her three good kicks before she heads onto the stage.


By David Brooks Andrews


From The Daily News, MA February 19, 2006

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