Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Starry Driving Miss Daisy Steers Toward Great White Way

Starry Driving Miss Daisy Steers Toward Great White Way

No sooner do I post my story on all the plays and musicals that have been confirmed for Broadway this next season and up pops another new show. Well, perhaps not exactly "new."

According to David Itzkoff of The New York Times, Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones will return to the Great White Way this fall in Alfred Uhry's Pulitzer Prize-winning play Driving Miss Daisy.

Directed by David Esbjornson, this revival will be Miss Daisy's first trip ever down Broadway, after having first appeared 23 years ago at Off-Broadway's Playwrights Horizons with Dana Ivey and Morgan Freeman.

The one and only time I caught Driving Miss Daisy on stage came in 1988 when I experienced the play in London. I'll never forget that incredible evening with the late Dame Wendy Hiller portraying Daisy Werthan opposite a young Clarke Peters as her chauffeur and companion Hoke Colburn. Presented as a three-hander, the stage was virtually bear save for some folding chairs lined up in lieu of car seats. Hiller and Peters didn't need any props to power their story of enduring friendship forward. They were simply magnificent, and it was a night at the theatre unlike any other I've ever enjoyed.

Just one year later in 1989, the Academy Award-winning Best Picture was released and starred Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman, Dan Aykroyd and Patti LuPone. As tender and heartwarming as the film was, I've always remained partial to the play and its inherent simplicity.

If I have any quibble with yesterday's announcement, it's that James Earl Jones is six years older than Vanessa Redgrave. The entire play's premise is built around Miss Daisy being too old to drive herself, let alone by someone on the cusp of turning 80. That Jones is now six years older than Morgan Freeman, who had just turned 50 when he first took to the wheel of the 1987 Off-Broadway production, makes me wonder how exactly Esbjornson will conceive his Hoke. But given how much I admire both Redgrave and Jones, you can bet that I'm looking forward to seeing this production.

Slated to being previews at the John Golden Theatre on October 7, Driving Miss Daisy will open on October 25. The limited engagement will conclude its run January 29, 2011.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

In keeping with the new Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations that unfairly discriminate against bloggers, who are now required by law to disclose when they have received anything of value they might write about, please note that I have received nothing of value in exchange for this post.

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At 30 June, 2010, Blogger Shari said...

I am not a fan of the film, but Morgan Freeman's character worked because he played significantly older than he was. The film worked as an idea because the two characters were of a single generation. I don't think a few years one way or another will hurt the play.

Even so--and I'll be happy to see Vanessa Redgrave on stage again in anything--I am having some difficulty imagining Jones in as quiet a role as this one, and it seems an odd fit for Redgrave as well. Fortunately, the director's imagination exceeds mine!

At 30 June, 2010, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Shari, The play is, in my humble opinion, much better than the film. It's about how these two forge a relationship and personal bond. But the two characters were most definitely not of the same generation.

I'm certainly hoping that the director's imagination exceeds both of ours because I can't completely wrap my head around why a son would take the car keys away from his aging mother (and let's be clear, age has everything to do with this story) only to give them to someone who's nearly 80 in real life.

As an actor, I know Jones is immensely capable, so it will be interesting to see how he plays a more youthful exuberance.


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