REVIEW: Driving Miss Daisy – Wyndhams Theatre, London (2011)

I am just back from an absolutely DEVINE evening at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London – currently playing host to “Driving Miss Daisy“, and starring James Earl Jones, Vanessa Redgrave and Boyd Gaines.

At tonight’s performance, Vanessa Redgrave was, unfortunately, indisposed. This appeared to cause quite a commotion at the box office with people hastily queuing up to change over their tickets etc, which I thought was a little sad to see. The matinée performance today was also cancelled, presumably to give her understudy, Jenny Lee, chance to dress rehearse the role!

Whilst there are going to be hundreds of reviews out there that go on about how great James and Vanessa are, I very much like that this review is completely different, and deals with the ‘what if’ scenario – as with such high-profile casting, people are often very hesitant, as proven by tonight’s box office returns queue, to give understudies a try – which, more often than not, is a terrible mistake!

Tonight, Jenny Lee was absolutely FANTASTIC! I genuinely cannot fault her performance one bit. It was absolutely on the money, totally charming and I absolutely ADORED her character! 😀

James Earl Jones puts in a mesmerising turn as chauffeur ‘Hoke’ and it’s impossible not to fall just a little bit in love with him! (incidentally, his understudy is West End legend, Ray Shell – again, please please do not overlook the production if he happens to be on instead!).

Usually, I don’t tend to care much for the ‘third’ character in any play/show – and nearly every play/show has one, but Boyd Gaines does a fantastic turn as Miss Daisy’s son, Boolie – and major kudos to him for holding his own and shining through, despite being up against some pretty hefty lead casting!

The set was simple, and elegant, I very much liked the use of lighting in this production, and, although I have seen other people say otherwise, I did not think that the story lost pace or momentum at all!

The only thing that I perhaps would have liked more of, was for the play to grab me a bit more at the end. Without ruining the story, I was rather warm and fuzzy at the end, and had the story pushed just that little bit further, maybe two or three months into the future, then I would have thought it stunning. Alas, you can only work with the source material that you’re given, so I definitely don’t begrudge this production this!

One thing that I cannot stress enough is how significant a production this is. This is a BROADWAY production taking up roots in the West End – this very rarely happens! Not just is it a Broadway production, but it’s an amazingly successful production that more than caught the eye of the Tony Awards panel. That, in itself, justifies the price tag on this in my opinion, let alone the all-star casting!

Speaking of the all-star casting, I was AMAZED at how many scalpers there were at stage door right at the end of the production simply trying to get autographs to sell online, and pushing in front of those of us with programmes. Pretty rubbish for those of us who have actually been to see the show and who genuinely want to congratulate and chat to the actors we’ve just spent time with! Grr! Unfortunately, in the end, nobody did any autographs tonight, but conversely it was quite pleasing to hear all those fools moaning about how they’d ‘wasted their time’. Pah!!

Driving Miss Daisy proved to be a thoroughly enjoying 90 minutes, and one thing that I will say, 90 minutes of hearing James Earl Jones’ World famous voice (I love him especially for Mufasa in Lion King!) echoing around the Wyndham’s theatre absolutely started Driving Mister Gari crazy!! I loved it!

Driving Miss Daisy is currently playing at the Wyndham’s Theatre, London for a very limited run (it must end in December) – and is 90 minutes in duration, with no interval.

My trip tonight came about thanks to the lovely people at Superbreak – they book for an array of london hotels (and also do theatre breaks); if you’re going to be travelling into London to see this show, I genuinely do recommend giving them a look over!

About Gari

Northern lad; living out in the Peak District and rediscovering life after having had a brain tumour.

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