Something Wonderful! – Part II

SOMETHING WONDERFUL! – Part II

By Lynda Jeffrey Plott with photos by Gordon Nieburg

The grand re-opening celebration of the Bucks County Playhouse took place exactly 73 years and a day after the theater first opened its doors in 1939. On July 2, 2012, a mix of celebrities, politicians, townies, tourists, and theater buffs, along with a slew of news reporters and television cameramen assembled on the sprawling new brick plaza outside of the theater.  This was the “Not-To-Be-Missed” event of the summer season. The weather was hot and sultry and the anticipation in the crowd was absolutely sizzling!

After a heartwarming welcome by the Playhouse’s new producing director, Jed Bernstein (who, by the way, is a seasoned Broadway producer!), the group heard from a variety of visiting guests and dignitaries. There were loud whistles and cheers when veteran stage and screen actor, Eli Wallach, along with his wife and fellow actress, Anne Jackson, were introduced to the crowd. (Wallach received an honorary Academy Award last year for his “Lifetime Achievement” contributions to the movie industry.)  At 96 years of age, Wallach has played in more than 80 films. He is best known for playing the roles of gangsters and bandits – Tuco in “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and the vicious Calvera in “The Magnificent Seven.”   Wallach’s first love has always been the theater, however.  In 1976 Eli and Anne came to the Playhouse and co-starred in the show “The House of Blue Leaves” which set a box office record. “We’re happy to be here,” Wallach said, as he saluted the crowd with his cane and then turned to kiss his wife’s hand.

Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson  (with Jed Bernstein on the porch)

“Eli Wallach? Are you kidding me!” said an awestruck Will Hammerstein as he reached for the microphone.  Oscar Hammerstein’s grandson, Will, first paid tribute to the legendary actor before giving his own Playhouse memories. “I can still recall driving through New Hope with my dad (Jamie Hammerstein – Oscar’s youngest son) and he would point out the Playhouse to me as a once-great artistic landmark.” Will Hammerstein, an environmental lawyer who lives in Connecticut, regaled the crowd with the same easy-going, gracious charm that his grandfather was known for. Ted Chapin, President and Executive Director of the Rogers and Hammerstein Organization, was also present for the evening’s festivities.

Will Hammerstein

After a string of hearty endorsements from the Pennsylvania Governor, Jim Cawley; Congressman, Michael Fitzpatrick; and New Hope Mayor, Larry Keller, a giant pair of scissors was handed to the philanthropist couple who “saved” the Playhouse… Sherri and Kevin Daugherty.

From left to right:  Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick; New Hope Town Council President, Claire Shaw; President of the Bridge Street Foundation, Tanya Cooper; Philanthropists and Founders of the Bridge Street Foundation, Kevin and Sherri Daugherty; Pennsylvania Governor, Jim Cawley; New Hope Mayor, Larry Keller

With a lot of hoopin’ and hollerin’, the three of them snipped the bright red ribbon stretched across the entrance way. It was a moment to remember. Yes, folks, the Bucks County Playhouse is now back in business! The theater is a-glow, happiness overflows, blessings are bestowed, and, OMG! Wait ‘till you see the shows!

Many thanks to Lynda Jeffrey Plott and Gordon Nieburg for this superb report.   Gordon Nieburg is a New Hope local who serves the town as Photographer/Historian.  Lynda’s final Bucks County Playhouse post will be published on Thursday, July 12th, Oscar’s birthday!

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