‘On Golden Pond’ offers great story, great acting

On Golden Pond in rehearsal: Janet Rice and Rob Glas star as Ethel and Norman Thayer in Ernest Thompson's masterpiece On Golden Pond, opening Thursday, June 28th at the Studio Theatre in Perth. For complete details please visit studiotheatreperth.comOn Golden Pond in rehearsal: Janet Rice and Rob Glas star as Ethel and Norman Thayer in Ernest Thompson's masterpiece On Golden Pond, opening Thursday, June 28th at the Studio Theatre in Perth. For complete details please visit studiotheatreperth.com. Photo credit: Bruce Raby
Posted on: June 15, 2018

Submitted (written by Paul Joyce)

When the film On Golden Pond opened in theatres in 1981 it represented the work of three actors at the peak of their artistic prowess, Katherine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, and his daughter Jane. Fittingly, Henry Fonda and Kate Hepburn each won an Academy Award for their portrayal of an aging couple dealing with the effects of dementia. At the time, their remarkable performances inspired every member of the film’s cast to do their best work ever.

This June 28th, the Studio Theatre premieres its own production of On Golden Pond, and for the local actors portraying the storied roles of Norman, Ethel, and Chelsea Thayer, the performances of Hepburn and Fonda are still an inspiration.

Janet Rice, a veteran actress who is well known to stage and film audiences, plays Ethel Thayer, forced to cope with her husband’s ever-loosening grip on reality as they arrive at their cottage for another season.

“Katherine Hepburn’s portrayal of Ethel was a revelation, filled with heart and humanity,” says Janet. “It’s fascinating to watch a softer side of Norman emerge through his dementia, and how Ethel deals with it. The person she’s loved for 40 years is beginning to disappear…”

Local actor Rob Glas, seen most recently as Monsignor O’Hara in the Studio Theatre’s hit show Sister Act, The Musical, plays Norman Thayer, whose world is changing around him.

“On Golden Pond is a funny, bittersweet and very real story,” says Rob. “Our director, David Parry, played this role ten years ago, but insists that I bring my own instincts to the part. Norman Thayer is a great role, a character that has become part of our culture.”

Dana Ruprecht, a skilled young actress with years of Toronto stage experience, plays Norman and Ethel’s daughter Chelsea, who has spent decades in a chafing, conflict-filled relationship with her abrasive father. The emotional landscape is further roiled when Chelsea arrives at the cabin with a new boyfriend and his teenage son. Dana Ruprecht says that in some ways her portrayal of Chelsea draws from her own family experience.

“Relationships evolve in every family. There are doors that open and doors that close, and I do have a certain emotional stake in this role,” she says. “It’s fascinating when you discover things in your own life that you can bring to your portrayal of a character.”

Rob Rainer, who has acted with the Greeley Players and Ottawa Little Theatre, and was seen recently in the Studio Theatre’s production of 9 to 5, The Musical, plays Chelsea’s boyfriend, Bill. Rob was drawn to On Golden Pond by the essence of the story — people coming to terms with aging and mortality. “I also really bonded with the play’s rustic cottage setting,” he says. “It’s one of the things that brought me to Eastern Ontario in the first place.”

Talented 12-year-old actor Ben Sproule plays the pivotal role of Billy Junior, Bill’s teenage son. When Chelsea and Bill arrive with the boy, Norman is decidedly unimpressed. But in time a bond grows between Billy and the old man.

“Norman likes Billy because he speaks his mind,” says Ben, “Norman always wanted a son, and that’s one of the reasons Chelsea and her dad were never close.”

The cast of On Golden Pond also includes well known character actor Hugh McCulloch as Charlie the mailman, a simple soul who has always harboured feelings for Chelsea. Charlie is too naive — or too kind — to grasp Norman’s sarcasm, although he is drawn to Ethel’s warmth.

It is a stellar cast of actors, each bringing their very best to these legendary roles.

Ernest Thompson’s Academy Award winning story On Golden Pond, directed by David Parry, opens at the Studio Theatre on Thursday, June 28th and runs June 28, 29, 30, and July 5, 6 and 7 at 7:30 pm, and July 8 at 2 pm. NOTE: There is no performance on July 1st. Advance tickets are $24 at Tickets Please (613 485-6434; ticketsplease.ca) and at the theatre on show nights. Students with ID pay $10 at the door, subject to availability. Save $5 opening night.

Don’t miss the unforgettable play On Golden Pond, featuring inspired performances by some of our area’s finest actors. For complete details about the show, dates and ticket prices, please visit studiotheatreperth.com.