BWW Review: Walnut Street's DRIVING MISS DAISY Steals Hearts
Driving Miss Daisy, a Pulitzer Prize winning hit and Academy Award winning Film is brought up close and personal in the intimate Independence Studio at the Walnut Street Theater.
Driving Miss Daisy was written by American playwright and screenwriter Alfred Uhry in 1987. In 1989 he wrote the screenplay for Driving Miss Daisy, which received four Academy Awards. Driving Miss Daisy had its world premiere Off-Broadway in April, 1987 at the Playwrights Horizons. Daisy had its Broadway debut in October, 2010, and extended its run through April, 2011, due to popular demand. The Broadway production then toured Australia in 2013 with Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines.
The storyline is as ordinary as one could expect; when the elderly Miss Daisy has an accident, her son hires Hoke, an African American, to be her chauffeur. Of course Miss Daisy balks like a spoiled and stubborn child at the thought of being driven around by anyone. It was Atlanta 1948 and Hoke and Miss Daisy were the least likely to become on good terms let alone friends. On their journey however, the two discover each others unique pride and uncover the changing times and reality of what it means to cultivate a lasting friendship.
The strength of this intimate production lies in the 3 characters and the talented artists who transport you back in time. Johnnie Hobbs Jr. as Hoke Colburn, Wendy Scharfman as Daisy Werthan and Bill Van Horn as Boolie Werthan.
Director Bernard Havard describes this as 'his dream cast" and with good reason. Hobbs Jr. is making his Walnut debut in this role, having recently retired after 30 years at University of the Arts' Ira Brind School of Theatre Arts. He has performed in many of Freedom Theatre's productions. Scharfman was last seen at the Walnut on its Mainstage as Lady Markby in Oscar Wildes' An Ideal Husband. She toured with Walnut's production of The Glass Menagerie in 2011 as Amanda. Van Horn joins the cast fresh from playing Santa in the Walnut's production of Elf. Van Horn has performed in many WST productions.
Both Hobbs and Scharfman capture all the tension that melts into a gradual mutual acceptance, respect and eventual appreciation for each others characters. Van Horn remains the steadfast loyal son keeping the peace as best he can within the household. There is a realistic aging process that takes place over a 20 year time period that is played to perfection by these three amazingly talented artists.
With simplistic sets that never detract from the characters and action taking place within arms length of the audience, this Driving Miss Daisy pulls you in and touches the heart.
Driving Miss Daisy plays at the Walnut Street Theater Independence Studio on 3 through February 2nd. Tickets are $30-$40 and are now available at 215-574-3550 or 215-336-1234. Tickets are also available at WalnutStreetTheatre.org or Ticketmaster.com.
Photo Credit: Mark Garvin