The Australian premiere of the stage production of Driving Miss Daisy opened on Saturday night at the Playhouse, QPAC, Brisbane, as the ‘star vehicle’ for Broadway and Hollywood royalty Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones.
Angela Lansbury (five-time Tony Award winner) played the title role of Daisy Werthan, a widowed eldery Jewish woman in Atlanta, who’s son Boolie Wethan played by Boyd Gaines (five-time Tony Award winner), employs a African American chauffeur Hoke Colburn, played by James Earl Jones (two-time Tony Award winner), to drive Miss Daisy around. The play follows their growing friendship (and frailty) across twenty-five years (1948 to 1973) against the backdrop of the civil rights movement.
Lansbury’s cantankerous Daisy was full of charm, wit, and understated comedy. Simply observing her stage business was a lesson in acting well worth the ticket for the budding thespian.
James Earl Jones as the chauffer exuded warmth and dignity. His jolly and endearing disposition were a pleasure to watch, and his transformation of age over the years – with changes in gait and posture – was well observed.
Boyd Gaines as the astute Jewish business man, was a great catalyst and counterpoint to the challenging relationship between aging white wealth, black pride, private acceptance and public prejudices.
Director David Esbjornson injects a depth of emotion into the piece that sneaks up on you without being overly sentimental.
The set was quite simple with a chair, bookcase, bench and seat which transformed into the chauffeur drive car and massive staircase which the spritely Lansbury impressively walked down more than three times.
Boolie’s office was depicted with a simple office table (with all set pieces swiftly moved by hydraulics). A clever lighting design (Peter Kaczorowski), complemented the set with simple additions like a massive arched window projected behind the staircase to depict the grandeur of Miss Daisy’s dwelling. The motley coloured backdrop was used to project the scenery and buildings they visited on their car trips, which proved an effective and economical set for the touring producer.
[pull_left]Director David Esbjornson injects a depth of emotion into the piece that sneaks up on you without being overly sentimental[/pull_left]
With Lansbury performing this piece at 87 years of age and Jones as 82, this truly is a once in a life-time opportunity to see two of the worlds’ greatest theatre legends on stage in Australia. From the moment they entered the stage, the audience erupted with overwhelming applause, and the evening ended with a most hearty (and well deserved) standing ovation.
With the season almost sold out before opening night, if you want to see this show you really need to pick up the phone and book your tickets … right now.
Following Brisbane Driving Miss Daisy will tour to:
Sydney – from 1 March, 2013
Melbourne – from 5 April, 2013
Adelaide – from 17 May, 2013
For more information and bookings in all cities visit: DaisyOnStage.com.au