Race relations are a fraught subject at the best of times. In post war USA, they reached another crescendo of hostility and conflict, though this time rather less violently than through the civil war of 70 years previous. Miss Daisy (Angela Lansbury) is an aging Jewish widow who’s driving record means she can no longer be trusted alone on the roads. Her diligent and caring son, Boolie (Boyd Gaines) hires her a driver, the African-American, Hoke (James Earl Jones).
Driving Miss Daisy then is the play of how these two start the long process of bonding, then inter-dependence and finally a sincere and deep friendship that sees their days out, with all of this played out before a back drop of the search for equality for African-Americans in the United States, particularly the South. The prejudice also displayed against Jews and the pressures placed upon those who get it by business and social conformity add spice to the tale.
For those who see Driving Miss Daisy as an opportunity to see two icons of TV, theatre and film strutting their stuff, you will not be disappointed. Recently I marveled at the stamina of 70 something Barry Humphries doing his ‘last’ show but he is but a spring chicken compared to Lansbury and Jones, both of whom are well into their 80s – Lansbury a remarkable 87.
Not that age was wearying them. Though neither was required to dance like Nureyev, both sustained their energy and composure throughout leaving us with the most touching and poignant moment of the whole show.
This play, written by Alfred Uhry, is a substantially pared down version of his Best Picture winning film of 1989 (directed by Bruce Beresford). Remarkably, this production is the first to be on Broadway and features that production’s cast other than for Lansbury who replaces Vanessa Redgrave. As well as its strong racial message, Driving Miss Daisy will also move baby boomers who will see their own lives flash before their eyes as the 60s pass and their relationships with their elders come into focus through Daisy, Hoke and Boolie.
A thoroughly enjoyable show that utilises minimal staging but clever use of projections to take us between the various locales and moments of time.
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