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James Earl Jones and Angela Lansbury clock up a few more miles

Driving Miss Daisy, starring Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones, must close May 12! Don't miss your chance to see two legends of the silver screen as they perform in Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play at the Comedy Theatre, with a special ticket offer from Showbiz.

Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy is an inspiring demonstration of depth through simplicity. Boasting the justifiably grandiose tagline “Broadway’s Greatest Legends on Stage!” the beauty of the production is found in the subtlety of the characters. Conveyed through the flawless three-piece cast, the plot is structurally simple yet emotionally and thematically complex. Set at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, weighty themes of segregation and oppression are skilfully woven into the narrative, enriching the characters without intruding upon the emotional centre of the performance.

This subtlety is also reflected in the effectively sparse stage design; the set is limited to a staircase, chair, bench and desk with ongoing footage, photographs and dates projected onto the blank wall behind. Thanks to the ingenuity of scenic designer John Lee Beatty, these props glide on and off the stage when needed and transform effortlessly into Miss Daisy’s automobile with the aid of simple sound effects and David Esbjornson’s clever direction. Throughout the performance, the music and lighting design work in unison to delicately support the impressive scene changes and enhance the authentic vintage atmosphere.             

Of course, with the combined acting talent of Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones, the scenography could have been limited to a beanbag and torch and it still would have been a success. It is clear that the talent and reputation of the two Broadway stars is the primary allure of the production; the moment they make their entrance from either side of the stage, the audience erupts in reverential applause. Lansbury delivers a faultless performance, maintaining a relatable humanity as the indomitable Daisy Werthan evolves over a period of 25 years. Jones is equally remarkable as Hoke, Miss Daisy’s enthusiastic driver. Jones’ presence on stage is powerfully sincere and his spirited optimism makes him the perfect companion for his stubbornly reluctant passenger.

Both actors demonstrate impeccable comedic timing through their energetic banter and are able to effectively portray the passing of time as their characters become increasing frail and dependent upon each other. Miss Daisy’s body decays along with her prejudice as the audience are treated to several genuinely touching scenes. The professional realism and restraint of the duo allow these moments to be poignant without ever bordering on melodrama.

However, Lansbury and Jones are not the only masters at work; Boyd Gaines completes the cast as Miss Daisy’s exasperated son Boolie Werthan who serves as the anchor for the entire play. By embracing the role of the mediator he enables the two leads to achieve their maximum potential. Gaines’ own performance is deceptively complex; as his character’s conflicting principles and politics are exposed, Gaines injects a refined intricacy into what could have been a potentially dry role. It’s no surprise then that, between the three of them, the cast have collectively won 11 Tony Awards. Driving Miss Daisy does not disappoint, and as the final scene fades to an immediate standing ovation it becomes clear that this may well be regarded as the definitive rendition of the play. 

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By Jack Clarke   |  

Driving Miss Daisy video

Driving Miss Daisy details

240 Exhibition St, Melbourne 3000

Telephone 03 9299 9800

Nearby Stations: Parliament

Price $89.90 to $149.90

Date 05 Apr 2013-12 May 2013

Open Tue & Wed 1pm; Wed-Sat 8pm; Sat 2pm; Sun 3pm

Director: David Esbjornson

Cast: Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines

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