Jack Lemmon Brought to Life In “Jack Lemmon Returns”


Hershey Felder’s theatrical franchise of musical story telling with photos has made him famous for inhabiting such renowned composers, from Beethoven to Bach, to his latest biographical incarnation of Irving Berlin at the Geffen Playhouse.  He has also produced shows in which children reminisce about their parents, including The Pianist of Willesden Lane, in which Mona Golabek tells the story of her mother’s musical odyssey during World War II

Chris Lemmon brings his dad to life in his one-man show - “Jack Lemmon Returns” on stage at The Broad Stage’s black box theater, The Edye. Courtesy Photo

In the same genre, Jack Lemmon Returns, created and directed by Felder, is a fascinating 80-minute journey through the life and times of one of America’s eternal cinematic icons, as channeled through his son, Christopher (Chris).  A skilled actor and pianist in his own right, he is a dead ringer for his dad, which almost causes one to gasp at the resemblance. 

Jack Lemmon as “Daphne” and Tony Curtis as “Josephine” in Billy Wilder’s “Some Like It Hot,” a comedy that showcased Lemmon’s extraordinary comedic timing. Courtesy Photo

The Broad Stage’s black box theater, The Edye, has been transformed into an intimate cabaret setting.  The walls are covered with giant photos of Jack from some of his most famous films including, Some Like It Hot, Missing, Days of Wine and Roses, Save the Tiger, and Mr. Roberts.  A grand piano sits dead center and soft jazz music fills the room.  Before long Chris enters.

Chris Lemmon as Jack Lemmon totally nails his dad’s speech pattern, capturing his famous stutter as well as his distinctive physical mannerisms. Courtesy Photo

It takes a while for the production to pick up energy, which happens when Chris morphs into his dad, whom he calls “pops.”  He totally nails Jack’s speech pattern, capturing his famous stutter as well as his distinctive physical mannerisms.  Because he virtually disappears as himself for most of the show, we don’t find out much about what it was like being Jack’s son.  However, the text hints at the fact that it was not always smooth sailing, as Jack put his career before family.  


Jack’s story begins with his privileged aristocratic roots in New England, then goes on to describe the journey leading to his incredible success as an actor.  He remembers his days at Harvard and his acting experience in the exclusive Hasty Pudding Club, of which he was President.  After graduation, he enlisted in the Navy and eventually followed his passion for acting.   

Joe E. Brown as Osgood Fielding III, dances with Jack Lemmon's “Daphne,” with whom he is smitten. Courtesy Photo

Well known for his comedic timing and physical life, Jack shares how he was greatly influenced by W. C. Fields and French actor Jean-Louis Barrault, who is best known for his role as the mime Baptiste in Marcel Carné's Children of Paradise(1945). The influence of their comedy is evident in Jack’s performance as Jerry/Daphne in Billy Wilder’s 1959 classic, Some Like It Hot.  Chris reenacts the hilarious final scene between HYPERLINK "http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0005510/?ref_=tt_cl_t6"Osgood Fielding III, played by the great, rubber-faced character actor Joe E. Brown and Daphne, who lists multiple reasons why they can’t get married.  As a sidebar, Jack tells the story of Jerry Lewis turning down the first offer to play Daphne, so whenever Billy Wilder ran into Lewis, he greeted him with, “Hello schmuck.”

L-R: Henry Fonda as Lt. JG Douglas ‘Doug’ Roberts with Jack Lemmon as Ensign Frank Pulver in “Mr. Roberts,” for which Lemmon won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Courtesy Photo

Jack Lemmon with one of his Oscars. Courtesy Photo

Jack Lemmon earned another an Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his role as Harry Stoner in “Save the Tiger,” the first actor to ever to win in the Leading and Supporting categories. Courtesy Photo

Jack talks about his film debut in 1954, It Should Happen to You, with Judy Holliday who, despite her airhead persona, “Was actually one of the brightest, sweetest women I’d ever met.”  He further reminisced about his role as Ensign Frank Pulver in Mr. Roberts, for which he won an Oscar for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, and his role as Harry Stoner in Save the Tiger, for which he won the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role, making him the first actor to ever to win in both categories.

Jack Lemmon teaching his son Chris, who he called “Hot Shot” how to play the piano. Courtesy Photo

As Chris, he reminisces about his dad, who called him “Hot Shot.” An accomplished musician, Jack taught his little “Hot Shot” how to play the piano.  He remembers seeing some of the biggest stars of that era partying in Jack’s Hollywood Hills home, among which were Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Peck, Shirley MacLaine, James Cagney, and Jimmy Stewart.  

Jack’s personal struggle with addiction doubtless lent personal authenticity to his riveting performance as an alcoholic in “Days of Wine and Roses.” Courtesy Photo

The booze flowed and Jack entertained his guests with his excellent jazz piano playing.  As far as booze, he developed a serious drinking problem, eventually seeking help to get it under control. His personal struggles with addiction doubtless lent personal authenticity to his deeply felt performance as an alcoholic in Days ofWine and Roses.

Jack recollects his special relationship with Walter Matthau. “Who was like a brother and the only person who could make me laugh.” Courtesy Photo

One of the show’s most poignant moments is when Jack opens up about his relationship with Walter Matthau, “Who was the closest thing to a brother I ever had, and the only guy who could really make me laugh.”  After Matthau died, Jack got a physical and was told by “Dr. Smuckelface” that he had only a few months to live. 

Jack Lemmon's magical onscreen presence is sorely missed. Courtesy Photo

So, for 80-heart warming minutes, Chris channels Jack.  At times you could absolutely swear that one of America’s favorite movie stars was alive and well, serving as a reminder of how much his magical screen presence is missed. 

A son honors his “pops.” Courtesy Photo

At the emotional closing Chris says, “Following greatness is not easy, but by honoring it, it lives on… Pops I love you.”


The Eli & Edythe Broad Stage

1311 11th Street,

Santa Monica, CA 90401

Run:   Tuesdays –  Fridays: 8:00 pm

          Saturdays:  5:00 & 8:00 pm 

          Sundays:    2:00 pm

Tickets:  $45 and up

                  310.434.3200 or

 HYPERLINK "http://www.thebroadstage.com" www.thebroadstage.com

Closing Date:  Sunday, February 1, 2015 












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