Wilsonville Theater presents a much-loved tale of the Golden years
On Golden Pond starring Glenn Russell and Alexa MacDonald opens Feb. 21
With any family comes plenty of stories, and the Thayers are no exception.
From age, rage, regret, love, disappointment and forgiveness, the Maine family famously shared their lives with audiences across the globe in On Golden Pond, the 1981 Academy Award-winning film starring Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda and Katherine Hepburn.
Now, the Wilsonville Theater Company is taking a crack at the American classic that actually has its origin as a 1979 play of the same title written by Ernest Thompson. Thompson also wrote the screenplay for the cinematic version directed by Mark Rydell.
Fonda went on to win the Academy Award for Best Actor in what turned out to be his final on-screen role. Hepburn also received an Oscar, as did Thompson for his script, and there were a further seven Academy Award nominations for the film.
With that kind of pedigree, its a daunting task for lead man Glenn Russell, who plays Norman Thayer, the character Henry Ford played.
Were alike in that we have the same sense of humor, but were not alike in the fear, said Russell, who is the father of Pond director Matt Russell. The character has fear of death, and that doesnt really concern me that much, and were pretty close to the same age.
Wilsonville audiences will be able to decide for themselves starting with the 7 p.m. Friday opening show at Frog Pond Grange Hall, 27000 SW Stafford Road. Tickets are $8 for seniors and students, $10 for general admission at the door. Tickets also are available online at wilsonvilletheater.com and at the Wilsonville Fred Meyer store.
Additional shows will be offered at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday; 7 p.m. Feb. 28; 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 1; 7 p.m. March 7; and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. March 8. For more information, visit wilsonvilletheater.com.
Matt Russell will direct the Wilsonville version of On Golden Pond. He said the Norman Thayer character, as well as the entirety of the play, will have a unique feel to it that those familiar with the movie may not immediately recognize.
Hes playing the Henry Fonda character, but he plays it very differently, he said. When people come in theyre definitely going to see something that is distinctly different from the movie. They wouldnt want to think, Ive seen the movie, so I dont need to see the play. There are actually quite a few differences.
For one, most of the character portrayals are different.
Our Norman is a little bit on the lighter side than is Henry Fondas character, Matt Russell said. Hes not quite as edgy as Fonda, so thats just one example of how were a little different.
Glenn Russell admitted its a bit of a challenge to portray a character so strongly associated with a single actor.
I dont want to be compared to Henry Fonda. He was a class actor, right at the top of the profession, he said. I dont try to imitate Fonda in any way. Its the thing about plays, especially plays that are movies, you never want to pattern your play after the movie.
The story will be familiar to most viewers. It features Ethel, played by Alexa MacDonald, and Norman Thayer, an elderly couple that spends their summers at their cottage in Maine on a lake called Golden Pond. Already in his late 70s, Norman is cantankerous and not well disposed toward much of anything except watching the scenery while sipping bourban and offering caustic commentary. And when the Thayers are visited by their daughter, Chelsea, played here by Cecilia Harper and in the film by Jane Fonda, the introduction of her new fiancée does not go over well. Even worse, Chelseas new beau, Bill, played by Wilsonville Theater veteran Sam Ford, has brought his young son to stay with them.
The boy is annoyed at first and put off at being forced to spend time with a curmudgeon. But he eventually comes to enjoy fishing with Norman so much so it even comes to upset his mother.
Other cast members include Nathan Will as Charlie the postman and Tate Ericson as Billy.
Winter is a good time to do a drama, said Matt Russell. Its probably the best time of the year to do a drama. And this one, I mean its a serious play with serious issues that its dealing with, but it also has an escapist element. It takes place in a summer lakeside cabin, so its an idyllic location. Its a nice place for audiences to go in the dead of winter; going to rural Maine in the summertime by a lake, its a nice place to visit.
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