Chicago Theatre Review
Chris Lemmon in JACK LEMMON RETURNS
Jack Lemmon Returns – Royal George
It is said that imitation is the highest form of flattery. When a family member remembers a beloved parent who has died it is wonderful. When the family member is able to recreate their parents speech and mannerisms, it is even more special. Chris Lemmon is able to do just that in “Jack Lemmon Returns”
This show that is written and directed by the incomparable Playwright/Director, Hershey Felder who is known for bringing famous people to life. In “JACK LEMMON RETURNS”. Mr. Felder has created another work of incredible genius. His previous accomplishments include: George Gershwin Alone, Monsieur Chopin, Beethoven, As I Knew Him, Maestro Bernstein, Franz Liszt in Musik, and most recently An American Story for Actor and Orchestra, and a recent extended engagement of The Pianist of Willesden Lane. All of which Hershey Felder has written, produced, and performed. The only difference was with The Pianist of Willesden Lane, which premiered famed pianist Mona Golabek, who tells the true story of her mother, noted pianist and author Lisa Jura. As with Mona Golabek, Hershey Felder uses Jack Lemmon’s son, Chris to portray his father. Hershey Felder combined his style of recreating the famous person along with Chris Lemmon’s love and intimate knowledge of his father. The result of this creation is astounding in bringing famed actor Jack Lemmon back to life.
“JACK LEMMON RETURNS” tells the story of Jack Lemmon’s life. It begins with his birth to a Massachusetts business man and his wife, who didn’t want Jack to pursue his dream of being an actor or performer. Jack was a great lover of music and began to play the piano at a very young age by ear. Additionally, from a very young age while he was in school, Jack filled in at a school play for a classmate who was ill. JAck was asked to take his place acting in the play. From that time on, Jack had a love for performing. Unfortunately, Jack’s dad thought there was no future in acting and encouraged Jack to continue with school where he was accepted and attended Harvard University. However while at Harvard, Jack continued to act in their productions. After leaving Harvard, Jack entered the Navy. After returning from service, Jack began to play piano in a bar where he was discovered. The rest is history.
When Chris comes to the stage as his Dad, he sits at the piano and begins to play Gershwin’s, ” Our Love is Here to Stay”. As Jack, Chris begins to speak with Jack’s incredible Irish lilt accented with his famous quirkiness and giggles. You would swear that it was Jack Lemmon! The similarities in their appearance is striking to say the least. However, Chris Lemmon is able to grasp every characteristic of his dad’s spirit in his performance. As Chris continues to tell his Dad’s story, as Jack, he discusses Jack Lemmon’s famous movies which include his Academy Award winning performances in Some Like it Hot, Mr. Roberts, The Apartment, The Days of Wine and Roses, The Odd Couple, Missing, Grumpy Old Men; just to name a few. As Chris was portraying his Dad, he went into character from some of these performances using the piano bench as a prop. When speaking of The Days of Wine and Roses, Jack spoke about his character being an alcoholic and that he became that character in life with his alcohol abuse. The conversation with the audience was intimate and very real.
The real captivation of Chris’s performance was when he spoke as his Dad about their relationship as father and son. They were best friends. Jack told the story that he and Chris’ mother divorced because he paid more attention to his fame then he did to his family. He vowed he would never make the same mistake again. Jack’s journey with Chris illustrates their closeness by Jack teaching Chris the piano, going on fishing trips, and doing all of the things dads do with their sons. The love was there and Chris was successful at bringing that love to the stage.
Jack spoke of his friendship with Walter Matthau where he thought of him as a brother. When Walter died, Jack decides to go to the doctor. to learn some disturbing news regarding his own health. Chris is consistent with his performance communicating as Jack regarding his final days. However, Chris manages to keep his momentum for making this an uplifting story of love between a father and son.
“JACK LEMMON RETURNS” is a wonderful true story of a man that so many of us know, remember, and love. It is a real treat for the audience to witness the extreme love that Chris Lemmon has for his beloved father Jack with the beautiful portrayal of his dad. Hershey Felder has created another masterpiece. I can honestly say that I can’t wait to see what is next.
Reviewed by Russ Goeltenbodt
“Chris Lemmon in JACK LEMMON RETURNS” has a limited engagement through June 1 at the Royal George Theater. I highly recommend seeing this wonderful production. Don’t miss it.
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