TR Robertson…..When the opportunity arose for Broadway Theatre owners Douglas Davis and Randall Hickman to stage another performance at the Welk Theatre before the theatre shuts down for renovations, they jumped at the opportunity. Welk Theatre has been the scene of many memorable productions both produced and starred in for Doug and Randall. “On Golden Pond” was a successful show for them last play season at their home at Broadway Vista and they took this opportunity to bring the production back to the stage, this time at The Welk Theatre. The talented cast from the first performance was available for this two week re-staging and the results were the same; a moving, at times funny, at times sad, telling of the strained relationship between an aging father, an understanding wife and their distant daughter.
“On Golden Pond”, by Ernest Thompson, first opened on Broadway NYC in 1979 and ran for over 200 performances. It was nominated for Tony Awards and Drama Desk Awards. The play lead to a motion picture starring Henry Fonda, his daughter Jane Fonda and the accomplished Katherine Hepburn. In 2001, CBS television staged a live TV adaptation starring Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer.
The story revolves around Norman and Ethel Thayer returning to their summer home at Golden Pond, in Maine. Norman is beginning to show signs of dementia and Ethel refuses to let this slow him or her down. Daughter Chelsea has been somewhat distant from the family and has a very distant relationship with her father, whom she calls Norman. Chelsea has had an unsuccessful first marriage and is bringing new boyfriend Bill Ray and his teenage son Billy Ray Jr. to Golden Pond to help celebrate Norman’s 80th birthday. She and Bill are planning to leave for a European vacation after the party. Mailman Charlie also stops in to visit, having had a long standing crush on Chelsea. We see Norman go through several stages of the oncoming dementia – forgetfulness, unease when in places that have become unfamiliar to him, quick temper (although you get the feeling he has always had this trait), and very demanding response to everyone. Enter Billy Ray Jr. and this young teenager seems to be able to handle Norman and through fishing and books they develop a friendship. Chelsea wants to have a friendship with Norman and in a pivotal scene she confronts him and they try to establish what they can do to break down the barriers that have built around them.
The returning cast members have all performed at Broadway Vista before. You can tell they are comfortable in their roles and you feel you are actually watching the “real” Norman, Ethel and Chelsea Thayer and Bill Ray and son Billy and the Maine mailman Charlie, go through their daily experiences in the woods of Golden Pond.
Norman is played again by Lou Slocum and he brings out the feisty, cantankerous Norman to a “T”. Lou’s presentation of Norman’s continual references to death and dying are very funny. His wife Ethel is played by veteran actress Marilyn Wolfe and she displays the “patience of Job” in dealing with her husband. You sympathize with Ethel and have empathy with the problem she must deal with daily, that problem being Norman.
Daughter Chelsea is played by returning actress Holly MacDonald, who has also performed in prior Welk productions. She stands out with her emotion of dealing with a father that was less than affectionate growing up. Holly’s husband, Torre Younghans, plays Bill Ray. He is also a veteran of Broadway Vista productions and can be remembered for great facial expressions he displays on stage. The scene involving his discussion with Norman about sleeping in the same room as Chelsea is priceless. Playing his son, Billy, is Rancho Bernardo High freshman Reese Castin who loves acting and has been involved in theatre work since the 7th grade. Rounding out the cast is Broadway Vista co-owner Douglas Davis who plays the mailman Charlie, complete with Maine accent and he is also a saint for the way he deals with Norman’s biting comments. Anyone else might have thrown the mail at Norman.
“On Golden Pond” only runs through November 5th at The Welk Theatre and is a must see for anyone who loves well-acted, classic presentations of a timeless American play. It is definitely a good lesson for everyone in dealing with aging parents and those with issues beginning to show in their personalities. It’s also a good lesson on how to enjoy life as you get older because after all; “That’s what happens if you live long enough, you get old. It’s better than the alternative.”
Tickets for “On Golden Pond” can be purchased at www.broadwayvista.com or call 760-806-7905. The play runs through November 5th. Next up for Broadway Vista at the playhouse located at 340 East Broadway in downtown Vista, is “Living on Love”, a new comedy, with music by Joe DiPietro and starring Randall Hickman.