Driving Miss Daisy is Theatrical Perfection

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Every second of ‘Driving Miss Daisy’ is a captivating entertainment experience. Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and Boyce Gaines are first class performers who deliver theatrical perfection.

The magic in this show is not just perfect comic timing, or actors who inhabit the characters they are performing, but the subtle nuances in the delivery of every line, making this a heartfelt story filled with laughter, love and wisdom.

As soon as the two Hollywood legends appeared on the stage in opening night there was a rapturous welcome of applause, but within moments you put aside the thoughts of all the other iconic roles both these actors have delivered as they introduce you to their version of Hoke Colburn and Miss Daisy Werthan.

The story is simple. Boolie Werthan is not letting his elderly mother drive anymore after she has an accident. So he hires a driver for her, Hoke Colburn. Slowly they get to know each other and through a series of scenes the years pass by and we get an insight into these two interesting characters and a changing American society.

Alfred Uhry’s story of the elderly Jewish matriarch and her African American Chauffer’s twenty five year long unconventional friendship premiered off Broadway in 1987. It won the Pulitzer prize for drama. The film version came two years later with the late Jessica Tandy delivering an Oscar winning performance alongside Morgan Freeman, who reprised his part of Hoke from the stage production. It’s the only film based on an off Broadway play to have won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

In 2010 the play made its Broadway debut, with James Earl Jones, Boyd Gaines and Vanessa Redgrave playing the role of Miss Daisy. The show later had a successful run in the West End. Now for the last six months the show has worked its way around Australia gaining critical acclaim in city after city. The ability to bring such a talented headline cast to Australia for such a long period is outstanding work from the Producer John Frost.

Angela Lansbury has a face that can communicate so much, her eyes are mesmeric, her expressions say volumes, and her delivery of a southern accent is flawless. James Earl Jones’ distinctive voice is a given, you’d be thrilled just hearing him say anything, but the actor adds so much to his delivery of each line, coating it with inflection and subtlety.

Taking on the role of Miss Daisy’s son Boolie, Boyd Gaines is impressive, showing a man who changes and ages over 40 years, from being a young man to an elder himself. Standing between two Hollywood giants, Gaines delivers a strong performance that is as solid as concrete.

‘Driving Miss Daisy’ is not to be missed.

‘Driving Miss Daisy’ is on at His Majesty’s Theatre until June 19, tickets are available from Ticketek

 

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Speaking to the media ahead of the opening night performance Angela Lansbury described the story as ‘a wonderful situation’ and ‘a piece of American history’ saying it was a compelling story to perform.

For James Earl Jones the play’s balance between comedy and drama was an attraction to the role, alongside the character’s conflicts.

“It’s not a comedy, and it’s not a tragedy, maybe it’s both,” says Jones, adding, “I sit and I try to take sides when I hear them in conflict and I’ll be damned if I can… There are strong points of view and valiant points of view, but if you try to pick out who’s right and who’s wrong, then it’s hard to pick sides.”

“Hoke is illiterate to start with, so he’s not a good debater,” says Jones of his chauffeur character, “I admire people like that, I’ve known people like that. I’m from Mississippi and illiteracy is still part of our society, if you go into different parts of the country.

“Illiterate people are often the most poetic because they take what elements of the language… and they use them very poetically, to say what they need to say. Hoke, my character, he doesn’t use apostrophes, he has no use for them, so they just disappear.”

Angela Lansbury said she found the character of Daisy fascinating because she is so annoying. “She is the absolute opposite to me as a woman, so as an actress to play Daisy is really a challenge. To make her as tough and as awful as she is at times it as real challenge for me, but that’s what makes it interesting.”

“It’s not an easy role to play,” said Lansbury, “I love things that demand a special something from me, there are parts you can just walk through, but this is not one of them.”

Retirement is not something either of the two older actors forecast in their future. With Lansbury celebrating her eighty-eighth birthday later this year and Jones in his eighty second year the pair are certainly older than your average actors performing several shows a week.

Lansbury says the work she is doing is her biggest motivator, “Doing something that is meaningful… that gives pleasure to an audience and entertains, to be able to do that, and play great cities…it’s very heady for us.”

The actress revealed that she has another two plays lined in the future and that co-star Jones is already learning the lines for his next production. Co-star Boyd Gaines describes his colleagues as incredibly hard working and says it’s clear that they get a great joy out of creating and revealing characters they play.

After six months together touring the show around Australia Lansbury says the show and its family of actors and crew will be sad to ‘say cheerio’ to each other at the end of the short Perth run but says there hasn’t been a moment of regret in signing up to the extensive Australian season.

Graeme Watson

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