Chamberlain and Mills Won't Paddle On Golden Pond, But TV Faves Join Tour Cast

By Kenneth Jones
April 28, 2006

The residents of On Golden Pond's upcoming national tour have changed. Tom Bosley and Michael Learned will take the roles originally announced for Richard Chamberlain and Hayley Mills, producer Jeffrey Finn confirmed.

Chamberlain withdrew for personal reasons, and a choice was made to rethink the casting of the lead couple — retirees Norman and Ethel, who vacation on the lip of a rippling Maine lake — rather than simply recast the one role of cranky Norman.

The tour launches at the Ordway Center in Saint Paul, MN, Aug. 22. The 2005 Tony Award-nominated production will play 20 weeks on the road, to March 2007. Leonard Foglia (Master Class) again directs. Craig Brockhorn will repeat his Broadway role of Charlie the mailman.

In the play by Ernest Thompson, retired New England professor Norman Thayer (played by Tom Bosley), and his spirited wife Ethel (played by Michael Learned) spend one final summer at their family's lakeside cottage in Maine. En route to a European honeymoon, the couple's estranged daughter Chelsea arrives to leave behind her fiancé's troubled young son.

"Colliding generations soon forge common ground, but when Chelsea returns to discover Norman playing the father she never had, years of bitter memories and resentment rise to the surface," according to production notes.

Additional casting will be announced.

Bosley and Learned are widely known for the TV roles of Howard Cunningham on "Happy Days" and Olivia Walton in "The Waltons," respectively, but have many years of stage work behind them. Bosley is a Tony Award winner for Fiorello! and Learned's recent Broadway credits include The Best Man and The Sisters Rosensweig.

On Golden Pond will feature the same creative and design team as the 2005 Broadway production: set design by three-time Emmy Award winner Ray Klausen (Big River, Brooklyn), costume design by 14-time Tony Award nominee Jane Greenwood (The Heiress, The Sisters Rosensweig, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), lighting design by Tony Award nominee Brian Nason (Metamorphosis, Fortune's Fool) and sound design and original music by Dan Moses Schreier (Assassins, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee).

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This new production of On Golden Pond premiered at The Kennedy Center in fall 2004 before opening on Broadway in April 2005. The cast was led by James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams as Norman and Ethel.

For information, visit the show's official website at www.GoldenPondonBroadway.com.

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On Golden Pond was first presented for a limited run of 36 performances at New York's Hudson Guild Theatre, starring Tom Aldredge and Frances Sternhagen, opening Sept. 13, 1978. The production next played a pre-Broadway engagement at The Kennedy Center's Eisenhower Theater in January 1979, followed by an engagement at The Playhouse in Wilmington, prior to opening on Broadway at The New Apollo Theatre on Feb. 28, 1979 for 126 performances. A return New York engagement at The Century Theatre opened Sept. 12, 1979 for an additional 424 performances.

The acclaimed 1981 film version starring Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda was nominated for nine 1982 Academy Awards, winning three for the elder Fonda, Hepburn and author Ernest Thompson for the screenplay he adapted from his own play. For his screenplay, Thompson also won Golden Globe and Writers Guild of America awards.

Since its original production, the play has been presented on six continents, in 38 countries and in 24 languages. There are about 100 productions produced every year.