Ever wondered what it is to be the child of a celebrity? To be known, not by your own name but as the son/daughter of so-and-so? Well you can get an idea on that at the St James Theatre Studio where Chris Lemmon has brought his one man show Twist of Lemmon for its London West End debut.
Chris is the only son of Hollywood ‘A’-Lister Jack Lemmon – one of the ultimate stars of cinema’s golden age – and one thing is clear from the get go, Chris loves his dad. There is a real look and sound of affection to the whole show which comes across even before it begins thanks to the nicely laid out set by Simon Wells. Once the show does begin, Chris introduces us to the ‘twist’ when he asks how he can describe his dad then, in what I thought was a very neat move, turning it around and becoming Jack.
So, for the rest of Act I, it is not Chris up on that stage, it is Jack. Brought back to life beautifully by a son who knows his every mannerism and movement. Who can play the piano like his dad, use the same voice as his dad and, in reality, allow the ghost of his father to take over his whole body. So jack tells us his own story, from being born in an elevator at Newton-Wellesley Hospital in Newton, Massachusetts, through his amazing career and onwards. Chris/Jack has a store of anecdotes to impart – often illustrated with an impression of the other people involved. So, we had an acting lesson delivered by a George Cukor – one that many of today’s actors could do with taking heed of – then a Beverly Hills party with James Cagney and Cary Grant entertaining Jack’s young hotshot son. Even Marilyn Monroe makes an appearance, along with her rather famous ‘guest’ and his attendant security detail.
The second act starts the same way with Chris describing his finest moment at the annual Bing Crosby National Pro-Am/AT&T National Pro Am, held at Pebble Beach Golf Links when he made the cut – something his father never managed to do. And then Chris goes and Jack is back with us. Keeping the audience entertained and enthralled with his stories until the final dimming of the lights.
Twist of Lemmon is based on Chris Lemmon’s book 2006 “A Twist of Lemmon: A Tribute to My Father” and could easily have gone the way of so many of these tales where the child uses the opportunity to wash every bit of dirty laundry about their relationship with their famous parent. Fortunately, Chris doesn’t do this. He does talk about the times his father – through his career or his second marriage – distanced himself from his son, but even that is done with affection as if, looking at it now, Chris can understand the reasons behind it and has made his peace with his memory.
All in all, Twist of Lemmon is a must for any fan of Jack Lemmon or the golden age of Hollywood. You will hear some lovely anecdotes and learn more about the man himself – including the fact it was Grandpa Lemmon that introduced donuts to Europe. It’s an entertaining evening full of fun, smiles and happy memories and personally, I’m really glad I got to see it.
Review by Terry Eastham
“Growing up the one question I was asked more than any other was what is it like to be Jack Lemmon’s son. My father was one of the world’s most beloved actors. What people don’t know, however, is that he played the piano, really quite well, and that being a musician was his dream. But acting… that was his passion, and the whole world adored him for it. So what was it like being this guy’s son? And whether it be genetics, or just the way of the world, are you born with the same dreams and aspirations? How do you follow in the footsteps of a giant. Especially when that giant is your dad?… For me it began by trying to understand, not only who he was to me… but really who I was to him…”
These are the words Chris Lemmon speaks just before he becomes Jack Lemmon in his one man stage show. Told entirely in the voice of his father, the touching narrative explores this unique, yet universal father/son journey.
The impact of worldwide superstardom, divorce,
separation – yet the yearning desire on both son and father’s part to fight against the tidal forces tearing them further and further apart, to finally become the very best of friends, against all odds, shortly before Jack’s untimely death in 2001.
With some of the greatest music of the era, as well as a number of his personal compositions, pianist and actor Chris Lemmon tells this heart-wrenching, and ultimately heart-warming story that promises to make you laugh and cry, and then laugh some more..
TWIST OF LEMMON
by Chris Lemmon
St. James Studio
12 Palace Street,
London, SW1E 5JA
Wednesday 1 – Saturday 18 June