Driving Miss Daisy

Sometimes when you go to the theatre, and there’s a standing ovation, you feel as though the audience was just being polite. There’s a legendary performer on stage, and they’ve done a good show, and so some hard core fans in the front row will jump to their feet, and through peer pressure, often reluctantly the rest of the audience will follow suit. That wasn’t the case tonight at the Sydney premiere of “Driving Miss Daisy”.

I only have vague memory of the movie from about twenty years ago. Before the movie, of course, there was a play, and that play is now back on stage again in Australia, starring Angela Lansbury, James Earl Jones and Boyd Gaines.

Not having much of a memory of the movie didn’t matter so much, as I had a vague idea before seeing the play tonight that it was about the thirty-year friendship between an older Jewish woman and a black American man.

In the background, we see the human rights movement of the 1960s transform the United States from a place where black men were often hanged by the KKK, and where synagogues were bombed, into something more modern, and hopefully more human.

Through their years together, the lead characters also both undergo a transformation. The culmination of which is the line “you’re my best friend” delivered by Angela Lansbury’s character when she tells the character played by James Earl Jones. I had more than a tear in my eye when that line was delivered. I also had a tear in my eye at the end of the play when the James Earl Jones character feeds the physically incapacitated character played by Angela Lansbury.

Seconds later the audience was on its feet in rapturous applause. The response of the audience was genuine. Nothing contrived here. Best of all? They didn’t milk it. They came on stage, received the standing ovation, and then made their way gracefully off the stage.

It was a good story, well told, and with wonderful performances. I’d highly recommend it.

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