James Whitmore never met an audience he didn't like while touring for 30 years (on and off) in the one-man show, Will Rogers' U.S.A., but the actor has decided to end his long-running association with the biographical show.
Whitmore's final bow as the American humorist Rogers will be at the venue where it began: The historic Ford's Theatre in Washington D.C. It played one preview Feb. 15, officially opens Feb. 16 and continues to Feb. 27.
Since the world premiere of the show in September 1970, Whitmore has cocked his cowboy hat and grinned Rogers' famous grin all over the United States, spinning tales about Rogers' world and making observations about America.
Paul Shyre adapted and directed Will Rogers' U.S.A., in 1970, and the production designer was Eldon Elder. The piece was "created by" George Spota and is now produced in association with George Spota Productions. Whitmore has done it so often, it's like second nature, said a spokesperson. He apparently doesn't travel with an entourage or production team -- he just needs a blank stage. Official opening for the D.C. run is Feb. 16.
Whitmore is known for two other one-man shows, Give 'Em Hell, Harry, the film version of which earned him an Academy Award nomination for his portrayal of Harry S. Truman, and Bully!, about Teddy Roosevelt. He earned a Special Tony Award in 1948 for Command Decision. His other Oscar nomination was for "Battleground." Whitmore is a familiar character actor seen in the films "Kiss Me, Kate," "The Shawshank Redemption," "Planet of the Apes," "Nuts" and "The First Deadly Sin."
Tickets to Will Rogers' U.S.A. are $30-$43. Ford's Theatre is at 511 Tenth St. NW in Washington DC. For tickets, call (703) 218-6500 or for Ford's Theatre information, call (202) 347-4833. Visit the website at www.fordstheatre.com.
-- By Kenneth Jones