Most people from my generation were first exposed to "On Golden Pond" on the big screen in 1981 staring the incomparable talents of Henry Fonda and Katherine Hepburn. The now classic film about the collision and eventual uniting of two generations was instantly relatable and made the eventual discovery of the stage play the movie is based upon all that much more sweet. The classic story of life, love, trials, triumphs, tragedies and most of all family has warmed the heart of generations of stage and screen audiences and now Jeffery Finn Productions is bringing the heartwarming play to TPAC starring classic television parents Tom (Happy Days) Bosley and Michael (The Waltons) Learned–both of whom are award winning performers and have impressive Broadway credits to their names.
"The show is such a crowd pleaser," commented Learned from her St. Paul, Minnesota hotel room where the show opened to a packed house and closed to a standing ovation. "The first week is the roughest on us even though the crowds have been just fabulous because we’re still learning where the laughs are. The audiences have been on their feet every night but we didn’t really hit our stride until Sunday and we killed that night. It was amazing!"
Learned, who is best known for her multiple Emmy winning portrayal of Olivia Walton, had seen the movie years ago with everyone else and decided immediately upon taking the role of Ethel Thayer that she couldn’t revisit Hepburn’s iconic performance again until after the show ended for fear that she would be unable to get it out of her head enough to make Ethel her own.
"I guess I’ll just have to make do on my own," Learned joked with a laugh. "I’ll see how close I came when it’s over."
Starring opposite the amazingly talented Tom Bosley, Learned spent months before the show opened spending time with Bosley and his family in order to get to know him better and forge the bond of familial comfort that the pair would require on stage as husband and wife. The pair spent time rehearsing lines and getting to know each other as Ethel and Norman as well as Tom and Michael. This served them well as it was necessary to have as much personal chemistry as possible. The story of Ethel and Norman is so resonant because it is the story of all relationships between people. It is a chemistry that is hard to fake and easily spotted when presented cold.
"It is a real joy to work alongside Tom," Learned exclaimed heartily. "He just has to open his mouth and everyone laughs uncontrollably. He is a true gentleman and an amazing actor."
Nashville theatre goers should take advantage of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see America’s favorite dad, Tom Bosley, and America’s favorite mom, Michael Learned, starring in one of America’s favorite plays "On Golden Pond" at Andrew Jackson Hall in the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) September 19-24. Tickets range $20-$65 and are available at www.tpac.org, all Ticketmaster outlets, TPAC Box Office or by calling 615.255.ARTS (2787).