You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Broadway Review: ‘John Lithgow: Stories by Heart’

This solo show is the actor’s party piece, an intimate evening of storytelling and personal memoir.

John Lithgow.

John Lithgow is the most personable of performers, and his chatty solo piece “John Lithgow: Stories by Heart” finds him in a mellow mood, sharing loving memories of his family and of the stories they used to read to one another. The two stories he tells in Roundabout Theater Company’s Broadway staging of the show — Ring Lardner’s “Haircut” and “Uncle Fred Flits By,” by P.G. Wodehouse – are charming examples of the ones that his dramatically disposed father recited to his audience of four spellbound children.

“Haircut” is a deceptively folksy yarn related by a loquacious barber to the captive patron in his barber chair. With Lithgow brandishing the invisible scissors, razors, clippers, brushes, combs, and powders of his tonsorial trade, the scandalmongering barber launches into what seems like a genial tale about the late, lamented Jim Kendall. “Jim certainly was a character!” the insensitive barber declares of this brute, who drank his wages, beat his wife and tormented his children. “He was kind of rough, but a good fella at heart.”

By the time Lardner is through with him, the thick-as-a-plank barber has delivered a harrowing, even heartbreaking domestic drama without being aware of the human tragedy behind the juicy gossip. Lithgow loves such characters — big, hearty fellas of good will, but with no insight into other people and absolutely no compassion for others. He makes a brilliant buffoon of the oblivious barber, allowing himself no more than a delighted and slightly demented cackle to let us in on the joke of this “light comedy of small town American life that slowly turns into a gruesome tale of misogyny, adultery, and murder.”

“Uncle Fred Flits By” is a typically droll Wodehouse story about young English twits and their idiotic elders. Adopting a plummy accent, Lithgow holds up all sides of the wacky dialogue between Pongo Twistleton, his fun-loving Uncle Fred, and all the other florid characters who figure in this comic farce. Truthfully, it’s not a typical Broadway audience’s cup of tea. But it takes on richer meaning when Lithgow tells us that it was his father’s favorite story, and the one he read to his parents when they were old and ill. It’s hard not to choke up when he finishes the story and says: “Good night, Mom. Good night, Dad. I hope you feel better.”

Broadway Review: 'John Lithgow: Stories by Heart'

American Airlines Theater; 740 seats; $139 top. Opened Jan. 11, 2018. Reviewed Jan. 10. Running time: TWO HOURS.

Production: A presentation by Roundabout Theater Company, in association with Staci Levine, of a dramatic reading in two acts, adapted and performed by John Lithgow, of “Haircut” by Ring Lardner and “Uncle Fred Flits By” by P. G. Wodehouse.

Creative: Directed by Daniel Sullivan. Set, John Lee Beatty; costume, Jess Goldstein; lighting, Kenneth Posner; sound, Peter Fitzgerald; production stage manager, Roy Harris.

Cast: John Lithgow.

More Legit

  • Hugh Jackman'To Kill a Mockingbird' Broadway

    'To Kill a Mockingbird's' Starry Opening: Oprah, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway and More

    The Shubert Theatre in New York City last was filled on Thursday night with Oscar winners, media titans, and, of course, Broadway legends who came out for the opening of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The starry guest list included Oprah Winfrey, Barry Diller, “Les Misérables” co-stars Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Gayle King, [...]

  • Pat Gelbart Obit Dead

    Actress Pat Gelbart, Wife of 'MASH' Creator, Dies at 94

    Pat Gelbart, widow of late “MASH” creator Larry Gelbart, died surrounded by family at her home in Westwood, Calif. on Dec. 11. She was 94. Gelbart was born in Minneapolis, Minn. in 1928 as Marriam Patricia Murphy. When she met her husband, Gelbart was an actress, known for the 1947 musical “Good News,” in which [...]

  • To Kill a Mockingbird review

    Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    Against all odds, writer Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher have succeeded in crafting a stage-worthy adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The ever-likable Daniels, whose casting was genius, gives a strong and searching performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town Southern lawyer who epitomizes the ideal human qualities of goodness, [...]

  • Isabelle HuppertIsabelle Huppert Life Achievement Award,

    Isabelle Huppert, Chris Noth to Appear on Stage in 'The Mother'

    Isabelle Huppert will appear opposite Chris Noth in the Atlantic Theater Company’s production of “The Mother.” It marks the U.S. premiere of the show. “The Mother” was written by French playwright Florian Zeller and translated by Christopher Hampton. Huppert, an icon of European film, was Oscar-nominated for “Elle” and appears in the upcoming Focus Features [...]

  • Could Anyone Follow ‘Springsteen on Broadway’?

    Could Anyone Follow 'Springsteen on Broadway'? Here Are Five Things They'd Need (Guest Column)

    After 235-odd shows, with grosses in excess of $100 million, a Special Tony Award and a hotly anticipated Netflix special debuting Sunday, “Springsteen on Broadway” is an unprecedented Broadway blockbuster. As with any success in entertainment, the rush to replicate The Boss’ one-man show reportedly is under way, with a consortium led by Live Nation, CAA [...]

  • Clueless review

    Off Broadway Review: 'Clueless' the Musical

    How does a musical stage adaptation of Amy Heckerling’s 1995 film comedy of oblivious privileged teens, “Clueless,” play in the era of female empowerment and millennial engagement? True, the principal skills of lead teen Cher Horowitz are the superficial ones of mall shopping and makeovers. But her sweet spirit and independence, plus some added P.C. relevance, [...]

  • Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary,

    Ley Line Unveils Brian Wilson Documentary, 'Hugo Cabret' Musical

    Producers Tim Headington and Theresa Steele Page have unveiled Ley Line Entertainment with a Brian Wilson documentary and a “Hugo Cabret” musical in the works. Ley Line said it’s a content development, production, and financing company with projects spanning film, television, stage, and music. Headington financed and produced “The Young Victoria,” “Argo,” “Hugo,” and “World [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content