Hershey Felder has put together a warm, loving remembrance of actor Jack Lemmon and who better to play the featured role than his son Chris. To begin the show young Lemmon tells the audience at the Royal George Theatre that for the next 90 minutes or so, they will hear only the voice of a man that he loved and considered his best friend. True to his word, Chris has adapted the voice and mannerisms of his famous father and with many moments at a grand piano (which he plays professionally in real life) we're treated to quite a story.
Nothing seems to have been held back as Lemmon admits candidly that he failed early on as a husband and father, putting his career above all else. After graduating from Harvard University (Class of '47), and serving time in the Navy he decided to follow his boyhood dream and become an actor. Famed film director, George Cukor gave him his first big break casting him in "It Should Happen to You" with Judy Holiday in 1954 and this begins a series of revelations that will be familiar to those who follow the lives of the stars and a few surprises along the way for those who don't. His memory of how he got the his role in "Mister Roberts" is a gem
Music was important to Jack and the moments he (son Chris) sits at the center stage Grand Piano, are welcome. Especially when he sings "Our Love Is Here to Stay."
Chris Lemmon is quite adept at imitating many of the people who played important roles in his dad's career, especially Walter Matthau. Their relationship becomes a touching and important sequence in the evening's story. It may come as a surprise to some to hear the candid admittance of his years spent in an alcoholic haze, although he did admit he was a drunk back in 1994 on James Lipton's TV show, "Inside the Actors Studio." But you must credit Hershey and Lemmon for deciding to make this an honest and straightforward recollection.
I must do the same and mention one annoying aspect of Chris Lemmon's performance. He's got his dad's mannerisms down to perfection. There's that Cheshire cat grin, the staccato way of speaking and the fluttering hands, constantly in motion. Sadly, it becomes a distraction. Your appreciation of this evening with Jack Lemmon might also be measured by your knowledge or fondness of his work.
Jack Lemmon Returns is playing at the Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted with performances Wednesdays thru Sundays. For Tickets call 312-988-9000
Filed under: Theatre Reviews