James Earl Jones Returns to Broadway March 22 in On Golden Pond

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22 Mar 2005

James Earl Jones in <I>On Golden Pond </I>
James Earl Jones in On Golden Pond
Richard Termine

The new Helen Hayes Award-nominated staging of On Golden Pond makes its Broadway bow March 22 at the Cort Theatre, marking the return of James Earl Jones to the New York stage.

The Leonard Foglia-directed revival of the warm Ernest Thompson play about retirees facing the sunset of their lives at their Maine summer house — and navigating tensions with their daughter — earned solid reviews in 2004, when it played engagements at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and the DuPont Theatre Wilmington, DE. It was nominated for four 2005 Helen Hayes Awards for its D.C. run.

The 2004 cast recreates their work on Broadway, with Tony Award-winner Jones playing retired professor Norman Thayer, Tony-winner Leslie Uggams (Hallelujah, Baby! ) as wife Ethel, Linda Powell (former U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's daughter and a veteran of Off-Broadway's Omnium Gatherum) as Chelsea, Peter Francis James (Drowning Crow on Broadway, and the world premiere of Gem of the Ocean ) as fiance Bill, Craig Bockhorn (Prelude to a Kiss ) as mailman Charlie and Alexander Mitchell (Broadway's A Raisin in the Sun ) as Bill's young son, Billy.

Opening night is set for April 7 at The Cort Theatre, 138 West 48th Street.

This is Jones' return to the Broadway stage after an 18-year absence, when he won the Tony Award for Fences in 1987. A famed voiceover actor ( for Verizon, lately), he is also the voice of Darth Vader in the "Star Wars" films. His Broadway and film triumph came in The Great White Hope.



This is the first major U.S. production to feature African-American performers playing the family and extended family of the play (representing a majority of the characters in the work; mailman Charlie is the outsider). Thompson revised his script for the staging, although specific black culture references were not added to the tale, director Foglia (Master Class) told Playbill.com.

"Mr. Jones and Ms. Uggams co-star as the lovable curmudgeon Norman and his spirited wife, Ethel —a couple whose final summer at their lakeside cottage in Maine is interrupted by the arrival of their estranged daughter and her fiancé's young son," according to the producers. " On Golden Pond is a heartwarming and hilarious celebration of the everyday struggles and ultimate triumphs of life, love and family."

The production's Helen Hayes nominations include Outstanding Non-Resident Production; Outstanding Lead Actor, James Earl Jones; Outstanding Lead Actress, Leslie Uggams; and Outstanding Supporting Performer, Craig Bockhorn.

The production features set design by Ray Klausen, costume design by Jane Greenwood, lighting design by Brian Nason and sound design and original music by Dan Moses Schreier.

On Golden Pond had its Broadway premiere, starring Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen, at The New Apollo Theatre on Feb. 28, 1979. The acclaimed 1981 film starring Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda won three 1982 Academy Awards: for Henry Fonda, Hepburn and Ernest Thompson for the screenplay he adapted from his own play.

Producers of the Broadway staging are Jeffrey Finn, Arlene Scanlan and Stuart Thompson.

The performance schedule for On Golden Pond will be Tuesday through Saturday evenings at 8 PM with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 PM and Sundays at 3 PM. Beginning April 19, Tuesday evenings will be at 7 PM.

To purchase tickets ($41.25-$91.25), go online at www.telecharge.com, call (212) 239-6200 or visit The Cort Theatre box office (138 West 48th Street).

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This new production premiered at The Kennedy Center (Sept. 28-Oct. 17), followed by an engagement at The DuPont Theatre in Wilmington (Oct. 22-31). The producers note "this path ironically followed the original 1979 production's pre-Broadway journey from The Kennedy Center to The DuPont (then named The Playhouse) before opening on Broadway."

The show's official website has recently been launched at www.GoldenPondOnBroadway.com.