Legend's son adds 'Twist of Lemmon' to Milton

Craig Horleman
Posted 7/30/15

Famed actor Jack Lemmon shows his son Chris how to play piano in an early childhood photo of Chris Lemmon, who brings a show about his father “A Twist of Lemmon” to the Milton Theatre this …

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Legend's son adds 'Twist of Lemmon' to Milton


Famed actor Jack Lemmon shows his son Chris how to play piano in an early childhood photo of Chris Lemmon, who brings a show about his father “A Twist of Lemmon” to the Milton Theatre this weekend. (Submitted photo) Famed actor Jack Lemmon shows his son Chris how to play piano in an early childhood photo of Chris Lemmon, who brings a show about his father “A Twist of Lemmon” to the Milton Theatre this weekend. (Submitted photo)[/caption]

What’s it like to follow in the footsteps of a giant? Especially when that giant’s your father.

That is one of the essential questions posed by actor and musician Chris Lemmon in a one-person play coming to the Milton Theatre this weekend.

In this case, that giant is his father, Jack Lemmon, the iconic two-time Academy Award-winning actor.

Best Bets logo CLEAR copy“A Twist of Lemmon,” which mixes stories, impressions and music, is told through the voice of his late father.

“It’s me as my father talking about his relationship with me. Through the course of the show, we tell his life story but it’s not a Jack Lemmon bio. At its core it’s really a tragic father and son story, couched in the lore of the Golden Age of Hollywood,” Mr. Lemmon said Tuesday by phone from his home in Connecticut.

“I do over 50 impressions in the show. But it’s me doing the impressions as my father, people like Walter Matthau, (James) Cagney, JFK and Marilyn Monroe.”

It’s based on his book “A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father,” which was published on Father’s Day of 2006.

Mr. Lemmon said the idea to make the book into a stage production came from readers’ reactions.

“I adored my father. He wasn’t just my father. He was my best friend. And to cope with his (2001) loss, I started writing down memories, which became the book,” he said.

“It’s a unique albeit universal story about a father and a son. When I went on the book tour, the reactions were just

wonderful and the book did quite well.

“I turned the book tour into a performance piece and still just felt like it could go further. Then I thought if I could change the narrator to have it be my father ... that was one of those light bulb over the head moments.”

The show also intersperses piano pieces (his father taught him how to play and he became classically trained) and performances from his father’s legendary films, including “Some Like it Hot,” “The Apartment” and “Mister Roberts,” the 1955 film for which he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.

Although Mr. Lemmon said the show has no “wire hanger moments,” there are plenty of “bumps in the road.”

“And my duty as the narrator is to delve into those bumps in the road,” he said.

Chief among them is the divorce of his parents when he was 3. His father left his mother Cynthia Stone in 1956, making Jack a mostly absentee father.

“I call these moments the ‘voices in his ears’ telling him to move on saying ‘Jack, you gotta think about your career. The kid is getting in the way.’

“I spent most of my adolescence staring at the empty chair at the end of the dinner table. I was essentially banished to the front steps waiting for him.”

Chris Lemmon does over 50 impressions and also plays piano during the 90-minute show.  Chris Lemmon does over 50 impressions and also plays piano during the 90-minute show.

Mr. Lemmon said part of his parents’ breakup was the result of the Hollywood studio system of that time and its “career first” attitude.

“Pop later admitted that he adored me — and he could be a good father but I think he loved his acting career just a little bit more,” Mr. Lemmon said.

Another one of those “bumps in the road” was his father’s alcoholism.

He disclosed for the first time publicly in 1994 on Bravo’s “Inside the Actor’s Studio” that he was indeed an alcoholic.

“(The host) James Lipton had to pick his jaw off of the floor,” Mr. Lemmon said.

“He chose to go public at a time when that was not en vogue. It could have cost him his career. But he figured that if he could help one person, then he would have done his job. He walked the walk. He said on several occasions that I was the one who would show up to his door after a bender.”

Through a “conscious decision” on the part of both of them, Mr. Lemmon said they reconnected for the last 20 years of his father’s life, spending time fishing, golfing, playing the piano until all hours “and just enjoying the hell out of one another.”

Chris Lemmon, now 61, later got into the acting business, having roles on sitcoms such as “Duet” and “Open House” and movies such as “Airport ’77,” “Swing Shift” and “Cannonball Run II.”

He said his father never pushed him into show business. In fact, it was just the opposite.

“He was always very proud of me but he never really gave me advice. I think he felt like he was intruding if he did. I would have welcomed it actually,” Mr. Lemmon said.

“I did a lot of lousy stuff. But I also did some decent stuff. I was no Jack Lemmon but I was a working actor, which is tough to be in this business.”

Mr. Lemmon said his dad was extremely proud of his stage work, especially in plays such as “Barefoot in the Park” and “Love Letters,” which he did with Stephanie Zimbalist.

Recently, he performed “A Twist of Lemmon” at the Rubicon Theatre in Ventura, California, where his father previously performed. His autographed picture is displayed now next to his father’s above the dressing room they shared so many years apart.

It’s fitting since he feels like he’s with him for the 90-minute duration of the show.

“It is cathartic for me. Every time I am about to go on stage I look to the skies and say ‘Pop, here we go. Let’s get to work. It’s magic time.’ And then I change myself into him. It’s comforting but scary at the same time, which at my age and at this point of my career is what you want out of a role.

“Pop always used to say ‘the best roles were always the ones that scared me to death.’”

If there is one thing that Mr. Lemmon hopes this weekend’s Milton audiences will take from the show, it’s to “tell your loved ones that you love them because you never know what you have until they are gone. You might think you do but you don’t.

“Just appreciate the importance of having them in your life — and don’t ever take it for granted.”

Show times are at 8 tonight and Saturday night and 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $35 to $45 and can be purchased by visiting www.pcade.com/milton.

For more information, call (302) 684-3400. The Milton Theatre is at 110 Union St.

McColgan in ‘Extinction’

While she hasn’t reached the heights of Jack Lemmon quite yet, 13-year-old Quinn McColgan of Mills­boro has been making a name for herself in movies lately.

Last seen in the Christmas film “Wishin’ and Hopin,’ ” Quinn returns to the big screen in the sci-fi/horror film “Extinction.”

The R-rated post-apocalyptic film, which stars Matthew Fox of TV’s “Lost” and Jeffrey Donovan of “Burn Notice,” was filmed in Hungary last year.

It will be screened this weekend at Movies at Midway in Lewes and the Clayton Theatre in Dagsboro and Quinn will be present at some of those showings for a post-film Q&A and to sign autographs.

She will be at the 9:30 showing tonight in Dagsboro and then Saturday will attend the 7 and 9:30 p.m. shows.

Quinn previously has been featured in the Liam Neeson thriller “Non-Stop” and the HBO mini-series “Mildred Pierce.”

Grammer time in Dewey

Pop star Andy Grammer plays the Bottle and Cork  in Dewey Beach Wednesday night. (Submitted photo) Pop star Andy Grammer plays the Bottle and Cork in Dewey Beach Wednesday night.

Staying in Sussex, platinum-selling singer/songwriter Andy Grammer whose hit single, “Honey, I’m Good,” is getting constant airplay is set for Dewey Beach’s Bottle and Cork Wednesday night at 9.

He will be there with opening act and past Firefly Music Festival band American Authors as he tours the country in support of his current album “Magazines Or Novels.”

“Honey, I’m Good” is currently a Top 5 best-selling song in the U.S. on iTunes, No. 1 on Adult Pop Radio and peaked at No. 9 in the Billboard Top 40. The track has more than 32 million Spotify streams and 30 million views on YouTube.

Tickets are $25 for the 21 and older show and can be obtained by visiting www.deweybeachlife.com or stopping by the Bottle and Cork at 1807 Del. 1.

Breuer tonight in Dover

As we told you a couple of weeks ago, comedian Jim Breuer, a former cast member of “Saturday Night Live” and co-star of the movie “Half-Baked,” performs tonight at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino’s Rollins Center.

Officials say that a few tickets still remain for the 9 p.m. show and only can be obtained by calling (800) 711-5882.

Now showing

Aside from “Extinction,” new this weekend in theaters is Tom Cruise in “Mission Impossible — Rogue Nation” and a reboot of the comedy “Vacation” with Ed Helms and Christina Applegate.

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the sci-film “The Divergent Series: Insurgent”

To share news of your entertainment group, event or venue, contact Craig Horleman at 741-8224 or chorl@newszap.com.

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