Hinch Showbiz

What A Ride!

There is no other way to start this: Driving Miss Daisy at Melbourne's Comedy Theatre is one of the greatest theatrical experiences you will have in a lifetime.

I have rarely seen a standing ovation as rapid or as sincere as the one we took part in on Saturday night for veterans Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones.

And the first night audience that rose as one was drained and tear-stained at the end of a genuine tour de force. At times they did have you, well they had me, on the edge of the seat. They were that good. And the Pulitzer-winning play by Alfred Uhry is that good, with all the complexities of racism and ethnic intolerance and anti-semiticism in the Deep South in the early changing days of the rise of Martin Luther King Jr. It was hard to believe that Angela Lansbury is 87 - alongside that whippersnapper, 79-year-old James Earl Jones.

The Australian tour is their first time appearing in it together. He had played the black chauffeur Hoke on Broadway and in London. She saw it yonks ago off-Broadway with Morgan Freeman in the role that he later replicated in the movie. It's a movie I haven't seen but I suspect Hollywood took some of the pathos and rawness out of the plot and layered on the schmaltz. At the time, Uhry told Lansbury that Miss Daisy was a role she should play. He finally saw her in the role in Sydney recently and said she portrayed the troubled, snobby, fading southern belle, the way he had written it. I guess the success of the film stalled any new productions of the play for a lot of years.

I can admit now I was in two minds about going on Saturday night. Had been in Sydney and my plane didn't land until 5.30p.m. after a few hectic days up there.

When I told Jacki Weaver about my indecision, she said recently she saw the pair on Broadway in a Gore Vidal play (can't remember the name) and they were stunning.

And they are in this one. If you haven't seen the movie or the play I'm not going to spoil the ending but I'm not giving too much away with an observation about the acting skills of Angela Lansbury in the final moments.

A look in her eye, just a flash, is a snapshot of what love is or can be. Pure genius. I saw Miss Lansbury in one TV interview say she loved the role of Miss Daisy because 'I am a character actress'. She certainly is, Ollie. And one of the best.

Footnote: Because I'm giving DMD five stars I am allowed one pet quibble. Why is it on stage, in movies and on TV, any time any actor has to carry a suitcase, it always looks empty? No matter how good the actor, you carry an empty case differently to a full one. Memo Stage Manager: 'At least throw a phone book in it to simulate real luggage'. Same applies to television. On Two and a Half Men you just knew those pizza boxes were empty. End of grizzle. Suspend disbelief Hinch.
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