Thursday, August 31, 2006

On Golden Pond (The SOB Review) - Main Hall, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Saint Paul, MN

On Golden Pond (The SOB Review) - Main Hall, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, Saint Paul, MN

*** (out of ****)

There's no denying the lasting appeal of Ernest Thompson's On Golden Pond, a modest drama from 1979 on aging and the prospect of death, coupled with a family's reconciliation. There's also no denying the talent offered by two of television's all-time favorite prime-time parents Tom Bosley and Michael Learned in the lead roles of Norman and Ethel Thayer. Both expertly wring out of their characters the emotions that run parallel with growing old and the realization that life really isn't very long.

But unfortunately, the Leonard Foglia-helmed revival -- having just begun the first leg of its national tour in Saint Paul -- feels incredibly tiny on the stage. Perhaps it's just the venue -- the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts' Main Hall is downright cavernous. But the simple nature of the story itself never packs the emotional wallop you're expecting it to have.

At the heart of the drama is Norman Thayer's estranged relationship with his 42 year old daughter Chelsea, stridently played by a very stiff Kate Levy. When Chelsea and her new boyfriend Bill (Evan Pappas) leave his son Billy (understudy Dylan Perlman) with Norman and Ethel so they can spend a month alone in Europe, Norman turns from an old curmudgeon into hipster during intermission. There's never any explanation for Norman's metamorphosis or why young Billy has so easily bonded with the man who's 67 years his senior. It's as if significant scenes were ripped from the production in the interest of moving the story along in a quick two hours.

When Chelsea returns as a married woman, she's essentially rebuffed by a father who admits to never liking her. Yet, almost inexplicably, the new-improved Norman tells Chelsea in the final scene -- via telephone -- that he loves her. While the subtext is clearly that young Billy has had a profound impact on Norman's outlook on life, we never get to experience it. And that's probably the biggest deficiency in this otherwise pleasant little show.

Clearly, it's a deficiency that the very appreciative audience was more than happy to overlook, as evidenced by their rousing standing ovation at the end. But what could have been a more intimate and dramatic examination of how even old dogs can learn new tricks and appreciate new ways of looking at life, was instead completely left to the imagination.

This is Steve On Broadway (SOB).

On Golden Pond's tour dates include:
St. Paul, MN -- Now-September 2, 2006 (Main Hall, Ordway Center for the Performing Arts)
San Antonio, TX -- September 12-17, 2006 (Majestic Theatre)
Nashville, TN -- September 19-24, 2006 (Andrew Jackson Hall, Tennesse Performing Arts Center)
Philadelphia, PA -- October 31-November 5, 2006 (Merriam Theater)
Birmingham, AL -- November 28-December 3, 2006 (BJCC-Concert Hall)
Tampa, FL December 5-10, 2006 (Carol Morsani Hall, Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center)
Salt Lake City, UT -- January 16-21, 2007 (Kingsbury Hall)

Click here for On Golden Pond ticketing for St. Paul.
Related Stories:
Cast Set to Sail On Golden Pond Tour (July 19, 2006)

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At 31 August, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

Didn't someone write a musical version of On Goldern Pond?-Mike

At 31 August, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Mike, Not that I'm aware of, but then again when you consider that so many other plays and movies get the post-musical treatment, nothing would surprise me!

At 01 September, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

found it Marni Nixon & Edmund Lyndeck ~ Another Summer, the musical of On Golden Pond

At 01 September, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Mike, thanks for letting me know about it. I've done a little research on my own and found that Another Summer was first produced by the Seacoast Repertory in Michigan (maybe that's how you first heard of it?) back in 1998.

Here is the link to an interview with playwright Ernest Thompson from that year with Carol Raymond of Imagine News:

If you unearth any other information, please pass it along!

Thank you, Steve

At 01 September, 2006, Blogger Michael said...

No Steve Thank You. I'm half-way able to keep up with my partners conversation since I've been reading your blog.
Actually theaters pretty good here is Michigan at least in the summer. Lots of talent comes back home. Sugatuck a gay resort town does some interesting things.

I'll let you if we see Madame X and/or the Pirate Queen.
If the midwest like its usually the kiss of dead in New York. I remenber State Fair...Mike

At 01 September, 2006, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Mike - appreciate your kind words, and I'm glad you enjoy my column.

If you do see The Pirate Queen and/or Madame X, I'll be very interested in hearing what you think!

P.S. Speaking of State Fair, I wrote at length about it back in July ( thanks to family connection.

At 26 March, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

While working on my Son, Shadoe Alan Brandts', scrapbook from his tour of On Golden Pond as Billy Ray Jr., I came upon your review of the show. I was surprised to see you had credited the performance of the part of Billy Ray Jr. to Shadoes' understudy, Dylan . Although I am sure Dylan would have done a good job as Billy, he never went on. Shadoe portrayed Billy in every performance thru the end of the tour in April. Thank You. Debbi Ruth Brandt

At 26 March, 2007, Blogger Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Thank you for setting the record straight. My apologies for any errors on my part.


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