Let's Hear It For the Boys: Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch Star in Neil Simon's The Sunshine Boys

By Evan Henerson
30 Sep 2013

Danny DeVito and Judd Hirsch
photo by Craig Schwartz

With Griffiths gung-ho to play Al Lewis, but Segal not able to commit to a lengthy London run, Sharrock instructed Griffiths to put together a new wish list for the character of Willie Clark. That actor's list, according to Sharrock, contained a few big-name movie stars who would never consider treading the boards, and DeVito.

DeVito, thanks to the pregnancy of "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" cast member Kaitlin Olson, was available and interested. DeVito had trained classically, but his last live stage appearance had been four decades ago.

"One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at the Mercer Arts Center in New York in 1970," recited DeVito. "After that, I came out to California and did a lot of movies. ‘Taxi' was in 1978 and that was in front of a live audience, but I never got back to the stage."

So why this play? Why now?

"You're always looking for new things in life," returned DeVito, "and you get an opportunity. I started out doing summer stock and children's theatre. Working in front of a live audience was the juice, the high that I had been looking for. And it's a great play."

His enthusiasm notwithstanding, Sharrock confessed that DeVito's stage absence did cross her mind. "He told me that he thinks he sort of fell into the movies," Sharrock said. "It wasn't like he never had any dramatic training. It never became an issue. Anybody who sees this play will think it's crazy that this man hasn't been on stage in 40 years."

The production played to packed houses and strong notices at the Savoy Theatre in the late spring and summer of 2012. With DeVito and producer Richard Willis both based in Los Angeles, the next logical step of this Sunshine Boys was a remount at the Ahmanson, birthplace of several pre-Broadway engagements of Simon's plays.

Not long after it was announced that The Sunshine Boys would open the Ahmanson's 2013-14 season with the two headliners re-upping, Griffiths died following complications from heart surgery. Plans were far enough along that any thought of scrapping the L.A. run were dismissed.


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