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Golden Pond Shines Again

27 April 2001 No Comment

Daily Variety
— April 27, 2001
Written By: Army Archerd

HOLLYWOOD (Variety) – “On Golden Pond” “is a rare and memorable theatrical experience that doesn’t come along that often,” according to Variety’s Oct. 18, 1978, Off-Broadway (Hudson Guild Theatre) review.

Variety’s March 17, 1979, Broadway review (Apollo Theatre) said, “On the basis of ‘On Golden Pond,’ his first play, Ernest Thompson is a promising new dramatist, with an agreeable combination of wit and heart. If he can write more scripts, not necessarily based on close personal experience, the theater will be that much richer.”

The Daily Variety Nov. 13, 1981, film review: “‘On Golden Pond” is a class act which, even before its release, exudes an aura of historical importance due to its once-in-a lifetime casting coup.”

The feature version went on to receive eight Oscar nominations and wins for Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and screen (and play) writer Ernest Thompson.

Wednesday, on Stage 46 at CBS Television City, I watched the first camera rehearsal (with seven cameras) of a coming together of the stage, movie and “live” television versions of “Pond” starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and Glenne Headly in the three top roles.

Thompson, who again scripted, is also directing and Craig Anderson is producing, as he had from the beginning Off Broadway. It is exciting theater, marvelous moviemaking and the most “live” television, I promise you.

The set (by Eugene Lee) is a believable New England lakefront house. It even includes the lakeside dock, complete with shimmering water and a backdrop making you wish you were on the pond. The actors are a real “Thayer” family and will be captured by a corps de cameramen who weave silently among the players, who also include Sam Robards, Brett Cullen and Will Rothhaar. The cameras come in for the closest of closeups to capture the blink of an eyelash by any of the performers.

Camera cues are directed by Marty Pasetta Jr.; cues are also wired to conductor Anthony Marinelli, in a studio atop the stage where musicians appropriately background the action, as when Andrews and Plummer romantically dance briefly on the dock.

This is no saccharine version of the play, Thompson assured me. He laughingly says this time it’s “On Golden Porn,” adding, “It is sexier. Everyone’s attractive. It’s a sensual family.”

Julie Andrews said “it has more spunk (than the movie).” She admitted she, at first, did not want to attempt the “live” action’er: it was only when the team came together with costar Plummer–with whom she hadn’t worked since 1964 in “The Sound of Music” I brought her and Plummer a copy of my column of June 10, 1964 when I visited them on that 20th-Fox set in Salzburg!

The “On Golden Pond” troupe is completing four weeks of rehearsals with seven performances on cameras Thursday through Sunday morning pre-“live” airing to the East Coast at 9 p.m. I asked producer Anderson why they decided to go “live” rather than film.

“It has much more spontaneity this way–the home audience will really feel that they are watching it in their own private theater. It will have momentum–like the theater does.”

He was correct, I watched alternately looking directly at the stage and to a monitor that will be the home viewing audience’s “theater.” The show crackles with excitement. And the cued-in music–not heard by the actors on the stage–adds romantic, well as dramatic values.

Wednesday was a doubly emotional day for Julie Andrews–Tuesday night at the Beverly Hilton she was honored by the Society of Singers with a gala tribute–details to follow on Thursday. She will also be seen on the big screen in, “The Princess Diaries” bowing in August.

Christopher Plummer is also busy, having wound the feature, “Lucky Break” and BBC special “Night and Day.” He next goes into Ron Howard’s “A Beautiful Mind” with Russell Crowe and then “Arrarat.” He’s also completing his book, which he says is not a “tell-all, rather “a novel.” He’s up to p. 454 “and I’m only at year 1961,” he laughed.

Screenwriter Thompson is polishing up a Broadway-bound musical version of “On Golden Pond” this summer and the straight play bows in Paris this fall. It has played on six continents and, he happily notes, “It hasn’t aged.” CBS will air it a second time–yet to be determined–and they also have rights for a video. The “Pond” is indeed golden.

© 2001 Daily Variety

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