Driving Miss Daisy, the Pulitzer Winning play by Alfred Uhry, is a superlative once in a lifetime theatrical experience. It is coming to Melbourne in April and we can't wait! Four time Tony Award winning actor, Boyd Gaines, joins Academy and Tony Award winning actors Angela Lansbury and James Earl Jones – an amazing cast of acting legends!
Gaines has lived with 'Daisy' since its Broadway debut in 2010 (Vanessa Redgrave, James Earl Jones, Boyd Gaines). It had had a previous incarnation in an off-Broadway production in 1987 (Dana Ivey, Morgan Freeman, Ray Gill) as well as a West End production in 1988 (Wendy Hiller, Clarke Peters, Barry Foster). Uhry adapted it into the screenplay for a 1989 film of the same name starring Jessica Tandy, Morgan Freeman and Dan Aykroyd.
The play is about the relationship of an elderly white Southern Jewish matriarch, and her kind-hearted African-American chauffeur. After cracking up her brand-new Packard on a day in 1948 her son, Boolie, decides that at 72 Daisy is too old to be driving. He hires Hoke, a black chauffeur, to become her driver. Hoke spends the next 25 years – the years of the civil-rights movement – driving Miss Daisy around town. As the wheels turn and the decades roll by against a backdrop of prejudice, inequality and civil unrest, the pair slowly transcend their differences and ultimately grow to rely on each other far more than either of them ever expected. Daisy and Hoke become equals and true friends.
Gaines' visit with 'Daisy' has been respectfully lengthy as well as one of admiration, trust and discovery. Gaines believes that what people recognize and connect with (once having viewed the play) is that one-on-one relationships always defy stereotypes. "That’s how we break down prejudice and any preconceived notions about how people should behave," he states. "And it is knowledge of other people, especially people different from ourselves that allows us to see their humanity. Gaines grew up in Atlanta during much of the time the play takes place. And, he admits, he feels a deep resonance around the historical events of the play.
Gaines has been an actor for almost half his life and is, in fact, considered to be one of the finest living stage actors America has. Gaines 'found' acting in his last year of high school where, he says, he had an English teacher and a Drama teacher who were very encouraging. "It was my English teacher who gave me a reading list of 200 of the greatest plays ever written, from Ancient Greek to the contemporary plays. Some of my favourites were Gibson, Chekov, Shakespeare, the Greeks, the big tragedies and of course, the big comedies. My favourite for the longest time was Peer Gynt by Ibsen. Overall, I tried not to fall in love with just the literature itself, but the scope of it all."
Gaines trained at the prestigious Juilliard School in New York (other alumni include Kevin Kline, Evan Handler, Val Kilmer, Mandy Patinkin, Edward Platt). Most Australians know very little about the acting truisms this school endeavors to instill in its graduates and when asked to explain some of these Gaines replied with a smile: "Remember your lines and don’t bump into the furniture!" The actor's training Gaines received at Juilliard School, which, Gaines explains, was designed to be a traditional English drama school that combined the vocal and physical with genuine inner life, has served him well. "You could create reality in all styles, " he says. " It is more or less a description of good American acting, which I certainly strive for."
An actor of film, television and stage Gaines admits to feeling more comfortable on stage than any other media. He does more stage work than any other but, he says, that tends to be based more on opportunity rather than choice. When discussing challenging roles over enjoyable ones Gaines comments: "I find all roles challenging but I just did a production of Enemy of the People where I played Dr Stockmann. It was not the most difficult but certainly the most challenging in the last few years. The scope of the role is enormous and the character is incredibly multi-faceted and the circumstances are completely loaded. The arc of the character is extreme. It was very enjoyable. However, I don’t tend to categorize and think in those terms about my roles."
Touring Australia with Gaines is James Earl Jones, whose career spans over 50 years, and British born actor Angela Lansbury, whose career spans an incredible seven decades. Gaines and Jones both worked alongside Vanessa Redgrave's Daisy Werthan on Broadway so what new dynamic does Angela Lansbury bring to this incarnation of Daisy? "The new dynamic is Angela herself," states Gaines. "She is a dynamo and creates an entirely new play. She is a brilliant actor and has a unique connection to the role, and thoroughly understands the contradictions of the character. She is also great fun to play with."
Driving Miss Daisy comes to Melbourne for 5 weeks only from April 5. This is a show you do not want to miss!!