Theatre yesterday and today



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April 30, 2020: Theatre Yesterday and Today, by Ron Fassler Having written many appreciations these past few years of theatrical greats after they have shuffled off this mortal coil, the one I undertake today on the esteemed director and lighting designer Peter H. Hunt is a difficult one. You see, Peter was my good friend with whom I shared many hours as he entertained me chapter and verse (and in exquisite detail) about his long life in the theatre, especially as it related to his directing the original Broadway production of 1776. He died on Monday at age eighty-one after a battle with Parkinson’s disease and, though I knew it was coming, I am deeply saddened by his passing. Peter H. Hunt


Alfredo James Pacino was born on this day, eighty years ago. Wow. I mean… that wasn’t supposed to happen. Al Pacino is eighty? Sorry, but to me he will always be thirty-two or thirty-four, looking the way he did as Michael Corleone in Godfather’s I & II. As evidenced over the decades, Pacino is in love with being an actor and has worked constantly, forever in search of new and different challenges since becoming an overnight star with the first Godfather. Those of us who saw him back in 1972 can still vividly remember sitting up and taking notice. And though he’s sometimes taken on film projects that I would imagine didn’t turn out as well as he might have hoped, no one can ever accuse him o


Thirty-three years ago tonight, Alfred Uhry’s Driving Miss Daisy opened Off-Broadway at the old Playwrights Horizons Studio Theatre on 42nd Street’s Theatre Row (now replaced by a theatre complex that boasts two theatres). I saw it some six months later on a night so cold that when I walked out into the bitter wind the tears froze as they ran down my cheeks. It featured Dana Ivey as Miss Daisy, the feistily independent old woman, whose twenty-five-year relationship with her chauffeur Hoke, as played by Morgan Freeman, made for one of the most indelible evenings I’ve ever spent in the theatre. Dana Ivey and Morgan Freeman as Miss Daisy and Hoke Coleburn in Driving Miss Daisy (1987) Miss Daisy


In 1959, director-screenwriter Billy Wilder, along with his then-writing partner I.A.L. (“Izzy”) Diamond, brought their screenplay Some Like It Hot to life in glorious black and white on the silver screen. The film, which starred Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and Marilyn Monroe became an instant classic, earning six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture. In June of 2000, forty-one years later, Some Like it Hot was voted #1 on the list of America’s Funniest Movies by the American Film Institute’s panel “of more than 1,500 leaders of the American movie community.” Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon as Josephine and Daphne in Some Like it Hot (1959). A dozen years after its premiere, David Merr


With the 2019–2020 season halted due to COVID-19, the scheduled Tony Awards ceremony in June has been indefinitely postponed. That old showbiz adage “the show must go on” has been dashed in ways Broadway’s thriving economy could not have foretold, and with it any sense of closure for the current season. As a lyric in Kismet’s “Stranger in Paradise” goes, things “hang suspended.” In 1967, when I was a ten-year-old kid in love with the theatre, I made sure to be in front of my parents’ black & white TV for the first airing of the Tony Awards ceremony on national television. The hosts chosen for this historic event were Mary Martin and Robert Preston, then the stars of that season’s hit musical


Adapted from an earlier column three years ago. One of my favorite actors, even from the time I was a little kid, was Melvyn Douglas. Even when I’d watched him on television in severely cut up Hollywood films constantly interrupted by commercials, I still loved Melvyn. Over the years, as I learned more about him, I not only discovered that he excelled in all mediums, but that he also led a truly upstanding life, putting his fame behind important causes and never failing to speak out against fascism and tyrany througout his long and prosperous career. And what a career! There was nothing he ever did that wasn’t first rate or allowed for imagining anyone else in a role for which he was cast. U

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© 2016 Ron Fassler - All rights Reserved

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