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The Sunshine Boys

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Title: The Sunshine Boys  
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Subject: 27th Tony Awards, Miriam Hoffman, Jack Klugman, Sonia Friedman, Neil Simon
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The Sunshine Boys

The Sunshine Boys
Original Broadway poster
Written by Neil Simon
Date premiered December 18, 1972
Original language English
Genre Comedy

The Sunshine Boys is a play by Neil Simon that was produced on Broadway in 1972 and later adapted for film and television.


  • Plot 1
  • Theatre productions 2
  • West End Cast 3
  • Film adaptation 4
  • Television adaptations 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The play focuses on aging Al Lewis and Willie Clark, a one-time vaudevillian team known as "Lewis and Clark" who, over the course of forty-odd years, not only grew to hate each other but never spoke to each other off-stage throughout the final year of their act. The stubborn Clark, who was not ready for retirement, resented the wiser Lewis for breaking up the act when he opted to leave show business. It is now the early-seventies and CBS is inviting the team to reunite for a special on the history of comedy, with the pair representing the vaudeville era at its best. Clark is convinced by his nephew Ben to revive one of the old routines one last time. Much of the humor is derived from efforts to get the two cantankerous actors into the same room for a rehearsal, their differences of opinion once they reunite, and their shenanigans on the actual broadcast.

Neil Simon was inspired by two venerable vaudeville teams. The longevity of "Lewis and Clark" was inspired by Smith and Dale who, unlike their theatrical counterparts, were inseparable lifelong friends. The undercurrent of backstage hostility between "Lewis and Clark" was inspired by the team of Gallagher and Shean, who were successful professionally but argumentative personally.[1] Alternate sources say this is based on Weber and Fields.[2]

Theatre productions

The Sunshine Boys premiered on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on December 20, 1972, and transferred to the Shubert Theatre and then the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, closing on April 21, 1974 after 538 performances. Produced by Emanuel Azenberg and directed by Alan Arkin, the original cast featured Sam Levene as Lewis, Jack Albertson as Clark, and Lewis J. Stadlen as Ben.[3] Replacements later in the run included Lou Jacobi as Lewis and Jack Gilford as Clark.

Tony Award nominations went to Simon (Best Play), Albertson (Best Actor in a Play) and Arkin (Best Direction of a Play),[4] and Albertson won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance.[5]

The play was revived on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre, opening on December 8, 1997 and closing on June 28, 1998 after 230 performances. Directed by John Tillinger, the cast starred Jack Klugman as Willie Clark and Tony Randall as Al Lewis.[6][7]

A West End production of the play, starring Danny DeVito (in his West End debut)[8]) and Richard Griffiths, opened on 17 May 2012 and played a limited 12-week season until 28 July.[9][10] The Blog A Cultured Lad spoke very highly of the production and gave it a full five star rating saying that "Productions like this don’t come often. This show glitters, like fireworks on the fourth of July. Absolutely wonderful." Theatre critic Charles Spencer also gave the show a positive review, with a four star rating and said that "Thea Sharrock directs a pitch-perfect production that beautifully captures fleeting moments of tenderness in the comedy without ever turning mushy." The production was scheduled for a run in Los Angeles, but Griffiths' untimely passing delayed it. DeVito's old "Taxi" co-star Judd Hirsch stepped into the role of Lewis, and the show opened Sept. 24, 2013 at the Ahmanson Theatre.

West End Cast


  • Danny DeVito – Willie Clark
  • Richard Griffiths – Al Lewis
  • Adam Levy – Ben Silverman
  • William Maxwell – Patient & Understudy Willie
  • Peter Cadden – Voice of TV Director & Understudy Al and Patient
  • Nick Blakeley – Eddie & Understudy Ben
  • Rebbeca Blackstone – Miss MacKintosh
  • Johnnie Fiori – Registered Nurse
  • Oliver Stoney – Understudy Eddie & TV Director
  • Clementine Marlowe-Hunt – Miss MacKintosh & Registered Nurse

Film adaptation

The 1975 film adaptation cast Walter Matthau as Clark. Burns won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance.

Television adaptations

In 1995, Simon adapted his play for a Hallmark Entertainment production that finally aired on December 28, 1997. Directed by John Erman, it starred Woody Allen as Lewis and Peter Falk as Clark, with Michael McKean, Liev Schreiber, Edie Falco, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Whoopi Goldberg in supporting roles.[12]

His teleplay updated the setting and made the two comedians the product of the early days of television, the medium in which the playwright got his start.[12] Unlike the film adaptation, although they are portrayed as cantankerous, their animosity was not as severe as Matthau's and Burns' characters' bad relationship.

There have been three German television versions of The Sunshine Boys, all entitled Sonny Boys. The 1982 adaptation starred Carl-Heinz Schroth and Johannes Heesters, the 1995 version featured Harald Juhnke and Wolfgang Spier, and Werner Schneyder and Dieter Hildebrandt appeared in the 2001 edition.


  1. ^  
  2. ^  
  3. ^ The Sunshine Boys Internet Broadway Database, accessed April 11, 2012
  4. ^ Calta, Lewis. "British and 2 American Plays Will Vie for Tonys", The New York Times, March 13, 1973, p. 30
  5. ^ "Drama Desk Awards, 1972-72", accessed April 11, 2012
  6. ^ The Sunshine Boys Internet Broadway Database, accessed April 11, 2012
  7. ^ Viagas, Robert and Lefkowitz, David. B'way Sunshine Boys To Shine On Through June 28", May 5, 1998
  8. ^ [2]
  9. ^ Girvan, Andrew. "Danny DeVito makes West End debut with Richard Griffiths in 'Sunshine Boys' ", 30 January 2012
  10. ^ Shenton, Mark. End The Sunshine Boys, Starring Danny DeVito and Richard Griffiths, Sets Dates and Theatre", January 30, 2012
  11. ^ a b "The Sunshine Boys". Savoy Theatre program. April 2012. 
  12. ^ a b Stewart, Bhob. " 'The Sunshine Boys' (1997)" The New York Times, accessed April 11, 2012

External links

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