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Jack Lemmon Returns

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In 2006, Chris Lemmon penned a memoir, A Twist of Lemmon. It’s a tribute to his father, Jack Lemmon. Eight years henceforth, the younger Lemmon has collaborated with Hershey Felder, a prolific playwright, musician, actor, and director. Adapting the memoir into a solo show, and starring Chris as his late father, was something that came rather naturally to Felder. After all, Felder has written and starred in several biographically based monodramas himself, including George Gershwin Alone, Monsieur Chopin, Beethoven, As I Knew Him, and The Making of a Maestro: Bernstein.

Although Jack Lemmon Returns is reminiscent of many of Director Felder’s other creations in its set-up – as in Felder’s other stagings, a single piano sits center stage. Like Jack and Felder, Chris Lemmon is an accomplished pianist. Photo displays are projected above the upstage portion of the proscenium on multiple oblong screens to underscore the narrative, and a musical theme with refrains that linger and haunt the proceedings serve as emotional focal points in the show. It is a fresh and original piece of theater, carrying some major emotional wallops.

We learn of Chris’ life growing up with his actor/father. And we get a glimpse of the long and legendary career of Jack Lemmon. We are regaled with tales of Hollywood parties, such as the one where James Cagney sees Chris peeking out his bedroom door. Cagney scoops the boy up and brings him into the center of the festivities. It’s here that Chris witnesses a tone-deaf Gregory Peck attempting to vocalize the Gershwin classic "S’Wonderful," as Jack Lemmon mans the piano.

A consummate impressionist, we see Chris Lemmon evoke not only Cagney and Peck; he also does a credible evoking of his dad’s longtime partner in film and friend for life, Walter Matthau. For example, while shooting a movie with Jack, Matthau takes a fall that knocks him unconscious. The elder Lemmon, out of concern, places a folded jacket under the head  of  the injured Matthau. As Matthau regains his senses, Lemmon asks him, “Are you comfortable?” Without missing a beat Matthau, in spite of a serious blow to his head, retorts, “I make a living.”

But Chris Lemmon’s major achievement with Jack Lemmon Returns is in the heartfelt homage it pays to the senior Lemmon. With a countenance that appears to be a duplicate of his father’s and with a cadence of speech that is 100% concentrated Lemmon, Jack Lemmon Returns is a show that, like Jack Lemmon in his signature roles –  Mister Roberts, Some Like it Hot, The Apartment, and The Odd Couple – is a blend of laughter and tears. What’s more, Chris Lemmon delivers some remarkable and moving monologues from some of his father’s most memorable roles, including The Apartment and Save the Tiger (for which he won one of his two acting Oscars).

Not only is the production a terrific son-to-father tribute, it also establishes Chris Lemmon as a powerful performer in his own right.  No doubt Jack would be proud of the boy he called Hot Shot.

Jack Lemmon Returns continues in a limited engagement at the Laguna Playhouse, through June 22. Evening performances are Tuesdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. Matinees are Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. There are also Sunday performances at 7 p.m. (There is an added matinee on Thursday, June 19, at 2 p.m.)For reservations, call (949) 497-2787, ext. 1. For online ticketing, visit www.lagunaplayhouse.com.

*For theatergoers who miss the Laguna Playhouse run of Jack Lemmon Returns, the show will be mounted again in January, 2015 at Santa Monica’s Broad Stage.

 

Spotlight

Laguna Playhouse Announces Ellen Richard as its Interim Executive Director

May 3, 2016…Laguna Beach, Calif…Laguna Playhouse Board of Directors announced today that, later this month, Ellen Richard will be joining Laguna Playhouse as its Interim Executive Director. The Playhouse announced late last year that it was undertaking a national search guided by Arts Consulting Group (ACG) for an Executive Director to succeed Karen Wood who had held this position for the past eight years.

Commenting on the appointment Joe Hanauer and Paul Singarella, Co-Chairmens of the Board of Directors, said “In the midst of our search we encountered this wonderful opportunity to engage Ellen while we continue to seek appropriate long-term leadership. To have found someone with the extraordinary qualifications that Ellen has is thrilling. She is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer at New York’s Roundabout Theatre Company where she was Managing Director. Ellen also has strong successes in supervising the construction of theatres in New York and also in San Francisco at the American Conservatory Theater, a rare and valuable skill set considering the contemplated major remodel and expansion of the Laguna Playhouse.” Laguna Playhouse Artistic Director Ann E. Wareham adds, “We are pleased and proud to have Ellen Richard, truly a rock-star in our field, join us as our interim Executive Director who will help guide the Playhouse during this transition.” Comments Ellen Richard, “I have quickly grown fond of Laguna Beach and the Playhouse. I embrace this extraordinary opportunity to join one of the country’s top regional theatres at this time in its remarkable 95-year history. I look forward to helping the Playhouse and working with their incredible Board of Trustees and Ann E. Wareham.”

ABOUT ELLEN RICHARD

Ellen Richard served as Executive Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco from 2010 through 2015.  During her tenure, Ms. Richard negotiated a deal to buy the Strand Theater in tech corridor of Mid-Market San Francisco, helped raise the $34,000 million to renovate and operate it and steered the design and construction for the project which opened in May of 2015. The complex featured two performance spaces and has won multiple awards.  She opened the 50 seat Costume Shop Theater, a 49-seat “black box” venue used for the company’s Master of Fine Arts students and for shows by other local companies.  Ms. Richard was also credited with expanding the company’s educational efforts, coming up with programs like the San Francisco Semester, which brings undergraduate acting students to ACT from around the world, and Stage Coach, a community theater mobile unit that reaches into diverse neighborhoods

She was also Executive Director of The Second Stage Theatre in New York City. During her tenure at Second Stage, which began in 2006 (through 2009), she was responsible for the purchase contract of the Helen Hayes Theatre, growth in subscription income of 48 percent, and growth in individual giving of 75 percent, as well as conceptualization of a highly successful gala format and “Second Generation,” a giving program through which donors enable deserving New York City youth to experience live theater. Under Ms. Richard’s leadership, Second Stage provided the initial home for the Broadway productions Everyday Rapture, Next to Normal, and The Little Dog Laughed.

From 1983 to 2005, Ms. Richard enjoyed a rich and varied career with Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout that Ms. Richard joined was a small nonprofit theater company in bankruptcy. By the time she departed as Managing Director, Roundabout had become one of the country’s largest and most successful theater companies of its kind, with net assets in excess of $67 million dollars. Ms. Richard is the recipient of six Tony Awards as producer, for Roundabout productions of Cabaret (1998), A View from the Bridge (1998), Side Man (1999), Nine (2003), Assassins (2004), and Glengarry Glen Ross (2005). As producer of more than 125 shows at Roundabout, she had direct supervision of all management and marketing functions. She created Roundabout’s “Theatre-PLUS” programs, which include singles, teachers, family, gay and lesbian, wine tasting, and the 7 p.m. “Early Curtain” series, all of which grew to represent more than 10 percent of Roundabout’s 40,000 subscribers.

As director of design and construction at Roundabout, Ms. Richard was responsible for more than $50 million of theater construction for 11 projects. She conceptualized the three permanent Roundabout stages — The Broadway venues of Studio 54 and the American Airlines Theatre, and the Off-Broadway venue The Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre She directed the location search for Cabaret and oversaw the creation of the production’s environmental Kit Kat Klub. Prior to her tenure at Roundabout, Ms. Richard served as business manager of Westport Country Playhouse, theater manager for Stamford Center for the Arts, and business manager for Atlas Scenic Studio. She began her career working as a stagehand, sound designer, and scenic artist assistant.