Monday, November 10, 2014

Love Letters on Broadway and the lost ART of Letter Writing

No one forgets their first love...

Andrew Makepeace Ladd III wrote his first letter to Melissa Gardner to tell her she looked like a lost princess. They were both seven years old. For the next fifty years, through personal triumphs and despair, through wars and marriages and children and careers, they poured out the secrets of their hearts to each other. They defied a fate that schemed to keep them apart, and lived – through letters – for the one most meaningful thing, their undying love for each other.
What a delightful pair were Brian Dennehy and Carol Burnett
Now that Brian Dennehy and Carol Burnett have departed the show, they are being followed by Alan Alda and Candice Bergen (Due to Mr. Keach's work schedule, the opportunity for Candice and Alan to extend through December 18th worked out to everyone's benefit. Pleased to be able to celebrate the Christmas and New Year's weeks on Broadway with Stacy and Diana in LOVE LETTERS.), Stacy Keach, Diana Rigg, Anjelica Huston, Martin Sheen. Directed by Gregory Mosher and written by celebrated playwright A.R. Gurney. An enduring romance about first loves and second chances comes to Broadway.
Cliff Robertson and Michael Learned, Joan Collins and George Hamilton have ALL done Love Letters.
It has made me think about letter writing and how it has been depicted in popular culture.
I am just skimming the surface with this blog. 

Danny and I were invited as the guests of the producers to see Love Letters on Broadway. The lead producer, Nellie Nugent, has a passion for this play when she saw Stacy Keach and Diana Rigg do it years ago.
 Love Letters is a play by A. R. Gurney that was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The play centers on two characters, Melissa Gardner and Andrew Makepeace Ladd III. Using the epistolary form sometimes found in novels, they sit side by side at tables and read the notes, letters and cards – in which over nearly 50
Brian Dennehy Andrew Makepeace Ladd III  -
years, they discuss their hopes and ambitions, dreams and disappointments, victories and defeats – that have passed between them throughout their separated lives.
While Andrew becomes a U.S. senator, Melissa fails as an artist. See the show for an amazing ending that caught me off guard.

I love the fact that two ARTISTS can sit in one position for 90 minutes and mesmerize an audience with no gimmicks and or special effects, just TALENT!
I understand from Nellie Nugent that the first two actresses, Mia Farrow and Carol Burnett both wanted Dennehy, so he got two great leading ladies. We were lucky enough to see Carol Burnett and Brian Dennehy.
There was a great chemistry between the two. I can only imagine the wonderful quality that Mia Farrow must have brought to the role.
Knowing Burnett's history the way that I do, it was interesting to see the growth of her character and the disappointments that come along the way.
Both were so convincing in their characterizations that in my mind's eye, I SAW the experiences unfolding that were discussed in their letters throughout their lives.
The composers Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams carried on a correspondence over the course of many years. 

Years ago, Bob Randall wrote a book called The Fan.
 Barely noticed in the daily mail, the Fan's letters begin to come. At first filled with love for the star he worships, the letters soon change into fantasies of intimacy with her. Then, subtly, they become menacing, perverse, obscene - and they draw the reader into a dazzling thriller.
This book came out in 1977 when I was still in high school. I read this book and could not put it down. The entire book were these letters that were being sent to this star. The world of the internet and email is something that none of us could even fathom at that time.
When I read the book, I cast the entire movie in my head. The star that was/is being described in the book was a 1940s movie star who was experiencing a rebirth in her career as a musical comedy star. If that wasn't Lauren Bacall, who was?
Interestingly enough, Lauren Bacall DID star in the movie.
In 1986, I was invited to dinner at Bob Randall's. I was thrilled to be able to discuss this book and movie. When I told him that I had mentally cast Bacall in the movie, he told me that he did not like her in the movie and one of his greatest regrets was that Shirley MacLaine did not do the movie. He told me that shortly after the book came out, he received a call from MacLaine. She introduced herself and he responded by saying, And I am the f!@#ing Pope!" and hung up on her! She immediately called him back with a hearty laugh, which he recognized. She told him that she was interested in doing the film of The Fan.He told her at the time that he did not think she was right for the role.The Turning Point had not yet been released and Terms of Endearment was still six years away.
As mentioned, Lauren Bacall got the role. Years later, Bob attended an afternoon screening of Terms of Endearment. He said he kicked himself over and over. Just one of those twists of fate in the world of show
There is another great play that deals with the letter writing correspondence of two people. 84, Charing Cross Road is a 1970 book by Helene Hanff, later made into a stage play, television play and film, about the twenty-year correspondence between her and Frank Doel, chief buyer of Marks and Co, antiquarian booksellers located at the eponymous address in London, England.
PRIDE AND PREJUDICE -- letters figure in the plot many times, including Darcy's long letter to Elizabeth. Actually, many of Jane Austen's works, as letters were a major form of communication then. The letter scene in the end of PERSUASION is also vitally important.

Can you imagine Tom Hanks in Meg Ryan on Broadway in Love Leters!
You've Got Mail-even though it isn't technically writing letters but email.
This of course is based on The Shop Around The Corner which spawned both In The Good Old Summertime and She Loves Me.  
In Mame, there is a song called The Letter which was the device used to go from younger Patrick to older Patrick, showing the device of letters being written to his dear Auntie Mame over the years. 
Who could forget that it was through a letter in which Judy Garland told of her devotion to Clark Gable. There is a famous movie called The Letter starring Bette Davis.
Winona Ryder and James Franco also starred together in a movie called The Letter (not the same as Miss Davis'!)
Letters from Three Lovers is a 1973 made-for-TV drama film directed by John Erman. An ABC Movie of the Week and a sequel to The Letters (1973), the film is co-produced by Aaron Spelling, written by Ann Marcus and stars Martin Sheen, Belinda Montgomery, Robert Sterling, June Allyson, Ken Berry and Juliet Mills, among others.
A Letter to Three Wives (1949) stars Jeanne Crain, Linda Darnell, Ann Sothern. A letter is addressed to three wives from their "best friend" Addie Ross, announcing that she is running away with one of their husbands: but she does not say which one. 

When I first came to New York, my main means of keeping in touch with family and friends in South Carolina was through letters. How I wish I had saved those letters!

In working on my book on Hello, Dolly! (still in the works), it has been fun to see the telegrams that were sent on opening night. THAT, too, is gone, since the world of the internet took over. Progress? You decide.
Speaking of Dolly, during its original Broadway run, Carol Channing, Ginger Rogers, Martha Raye, Betty Grable, Pearl Bailey, and Ethel Merman descended the stairs of the Harmonia Gardens. Sometimes, it was Bibi Osterwald and Thelma Carpenter went on. Playing opposite these women were David Burns, Max Showalter, Cab Calloway, Richard Deacon, and Jack Goode.
There have been hundreds of other Dollys AND Horaces over the years around the world. Each put their own stamp on the roles.
There is no reason why Love Letters cannot have the same longevity both on Broadway and around the world!
Stepping into the roles this week are Alan Alda and Candice Bergen. They will remain with the show until December 5th. I would LOVE to interview both IF that happens!
Alan Alda Andrew Makepeace Ladd III

Broadway: Glenn Garry Glenn Ross, QED, Art, Jake’s Women (Tony nomination), The Apple Tree (Tony nomination) and The Owl and the Pussycat. Film: Martin Scorsese’s The Aviator (Oscar Nomination); Crimes and Misdemeanors (British Academy Award nomination); Everyone Says I Love You; Flirting With Disaster; Manhattan Murder Mystery; Same Time, Next Year; California Suite; The Seduction of Joe Tyman (which he also wrote); The Four Seasons; Sweet Liberty; A New Life; and Betsy’s Wedding (which he also wrote and directed). TV: “The West Wing,” “30 Rock,” “The Big C,” “The Blacklist,” “ER,” host of “Scientific American Frontiers” on PBS, “M*A*S*H” (played Hawkeye Pierce for 11 years, wrote and directed many episodes, won five Emmy Awards). Nominated for 30 Emmys; inducted into the Television Hall of Fame; won three Directors Guild Awards, six Golden Globes, seven People’s Choice Awards; nominated for two Writers Guild Awards.

Candice Patricia Bergen is an actress and former fashion model. For her role as the title character on the CBS sitcom Murphy Brown, she won five Emmy Awards and two Golden Globe Awards as Best Actress in a TV Comedy. She is also an Academy Award nominee.
I am looking forward to seeing both and will be returning time and time again. This show is a triumph celebrating the written word through the spoken word! It's more than a play. It's a love letter to the theatre.What more does one need?
Who was YOUR first love?

Candice Bergen /Alan Alda – November 9 – December 18
Diana Rigg / Stacy Keach – December 19 – January 9
Anjelica Huston / Martin Sheen – January 10 – February 15
Who would YOU like to see in Love Letters

For more information on Love Letters on Broadway, LIKE their page on Facebook at
Thank you, Pat Addis and Crystal Chase for introducing me (FINALLY) to Love Letters on Broadway. Portions of this blog lifted from the  Love Letters website.

Thank to ALL mentioned in this blog for the gifts you have given to the world and continue to give!
With grateful XOXOXs ,

Check out my site celebrating the first Fifty Years of Hello, Dolly!


Please do what YOU can to be more aware that words and actions DO HURT...but they can also heal and help!                

Here's to an INCREDIBLE tomorrow for ALL...with NO challenges!

Love Letters on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre
Source : Broadway World's Spotlight Series

Be sure and see Jerry Costanzo and his Orchestra on December 12thas he celebrates Frank Sinatra

IF you like this blog, please leave a comment and share on Twitter and Facebook

Keeping Entertainment LIVE!

Richard Skipper,

No comments:

Post a Comment