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“Jack Lemmon Returns” at the Broad Stage Review – Relives the Magic of Old Hollywood

By Ester Benjamin Shifren

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Hershey Felder, creator of many solo shows combining biography and music, has once again produced a winner. In “Jack Lemmon Returns,” Chris Lemmon, actor and son of Academy Award-winning actor Jack Lemmon (Some Like It HotThe Odd Couple), recreates his father’s magic, and not only pays tribute to his Academy Award-winning father, he seems to become him, thanks to his uncanny resemblance and heartfelt, expert portrayal.

After the success of his memoir, A Twist of Lemmon, about his enduring relationship with his father, Chris Lemmon began experimenting with a performance piece based on the book. Experienced writer-director Hershey Felder, with previous success bringing musical-biographical material to the stage, helped Lemmon develop what essentially began as onstage storytelling into the full-fledged play, “Jack Lemmon Returns.”



“It’s wonderfully unique, yet in so many ways it’s a universal, father-son story,” says Lemmon. “We are not only telling this wonderful story of father and son… but also you’re getting that kind of unique aspect of this crazy world that I grew up in.” Chris grew up among movie stars. Marilyn Monroe, Gregory Peck, James Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, and Shirley MacLaine were just a few of the many celebrities who passed through the Lemmon home in the Hollywood Hills.



Chris spent a lot of quality time with his father — fishing, golfing, and sharing a love of music. He showed musical talent, and Jack Lemmon, who put out his own jazz albums in the 50s and 60s, encouraged his son to study piano. Chris graduated from the California Institute of the Arts with a degree in classical piano and composition as well as a degree in theater. Interspersed between his passionate, human, and humorous stories about his dad are some superb piano performances—I would definitely have enjoyed hearing more of his music!

“Jack Lemmon Returns” is a loving tribute to a world-famous dad told with dignity, respect, and a musical storytelling style. Chris says, “I’m digging into a very emotional chest here, and there’s all sorts of stuff going on inside that chest. But… my father wasn’t just my father. My father was truly my very best friend, and I miss him very, very much. This story exists because of that missing of him. And for 90 minutes every night, I get a chance to have him next to me again.”



And indeed, Chris Lemmon is almost believably Jack Lemmon portrayed onstage, seemingly addressing a son seated offstage in the theater with affection, admiration and remorse—and sounding at times like extending an apology for his perceived parental shortcomings. Jack’s heavy moments—his divorce when Chris was two years old, and struggles with alcoholism and parenthood—are lightened by amusing anecdotes and details about his rise to fame. On the back wall of the stage, constantly unfolding screen visuals of aspects of Jack Lemmon’s life and career nostalgically transport us back to Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Chris Lemmon was born in Los Angeles, California, the son of actress Cynthia Stone and actor Jack Lemmon. He appeared in three films with his father: Airport ’77 (1977), That’s Life! (1986), and Dad (1989).


Who:   Actor Chris Lemmon (as Jack Lemmon), and Writer-Director Hershey Felder

WhatJack Lemmon Returnsan immensely personal, and ultimately heartwarming story about Chris Lemmon’s Academy Award-winning father and their enduring relationship.

Production Team: Hershey Felder (scenic design), Jason Bieber (lighting design), Erik Carstensen (sound design/production management), Andrew Wilder (projection design), Emma Marie Hay (scenic decoration), Rebecca Peters (production stage manager), Trevor Hay (associate direction)

Samantha F. Voxakis and Susan and Moses Libitzky, co-presenters

Photographs:  By Chris Lemmon

WhereThe Eli & Edythe Broad Stage / 1310 11th St. Santa Monica CA 90401

When:   January 7 – February 1, 2015.  8:00 p.m. plus weekend matinees.                                  

Tickets:  Starting at $45

                The Broad Stage or call the Box Office at 310.434.3200


About The Broad Stage

The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage at the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center opened its doors in October 2008. Inspired by Italian "horseshoe" theaters, yet conceived in an absolutely contemporary vernacular, The Broad Stage is an artist’s dream and an audience’s delight. Unlike any performance space in the country, it is sublimely intimate with 499-seats and strikingly grand at the same time. Theater shows, dance, film, operas, musicals, symphony and chamber orchestras are presented on one of the city’s largest proscenium stages. In addition to The Broad Stage, The Edye, a smaller black box theater, presents new, developing and innovative work as part of the Under the Radar Series. Featuring young, innovative artists, programming at The Edye is intentionally spontaneous, reflecting the dynamic nature of the space and allowing the latest, most exciting artists to be booked on short notice. The Broad Stage’s education and outreach program offers opportunities for cultural exposure through various student events, currently reaching 16,000 students and community members annually through over 30 free and low-cost events.


The Broad Stage is located at 1310 11th Street, Santa Monica CA 90401. Parking is FREE.


Published on Jan 12, 2015

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