I am thrilled to learn that the film The Young Victoria will be released here in early November. (You can watch a preview on the official website.) I am a fan both of Emily Blunt and Rupert Friend, the stars of the film. But I will think back to two not-so-young actors who played the famous shaving scene on a stage in New York, as part of Victoria magazine's Well-Spoken Companions series.
Julie Harris and Richard Kiley were our Victoria and Albert. Miss Harris brought her own costume for this dramatic reading. Richard Kiley, whom I had adored for years, was fitted with a smashing smoking jacket by Susan George, who also produced a set fit for such royalty. These two veterans were a thrill to watch. It was magic before my eyes in many ways. In the first place, here we were the inspiration behind such a pairing. The last time I had seen them on the stage was a reading of Love Letters. Now, they were our "stars."
Julie Harris had portrayed Victoria in the famous play Victoria Regina, the one that Helen Hayes played all over the country. (Many thought Helen Hayes was the queen, her portrayal was so true to life.) Mr. Kiley was new to the role, but not so new to bring his own inimitable touch--the star of Man of La Mancha did something that was not in the script. He sang to his queen Drink to Me Only with Thine Eyes. Hey, my eyes were full of tears and I am not sure I was breathing. I don't think the people packed into the auditorium were breathing either.
We began this series as dramatic readings. When the first one was to be announced in The New York Times, we turned with great anticipation to the readings section of the arts pages. There was no mention of our program. We were crestfallen. But this lasted for just a few minutes until we found our program listed in "Off Off Broadway" productions. Interestingly our offices faced Broadway, but we never expected to be anywhere near it in the New York press!
Many Victoria readers shared the experience by purchasing audio tapes we made of the evening, recorded live. I still have a small cache of them. With today's technology they almost seem as quaint as Victoria's handkerchief. I part with one once in awhile to share with an actress or an aspiring one.
Timidly I had gone into this endeavor. But Daniel D'Arezzo, on our staff, had the foresight and the contacts that made it all happen. It was a night to remember, including the reception we held for the actors after the performance. I was like a school girl when someone revealed to Richard Kiley that I was a huge fan. Having that voice talk to ME!
Note: Julie Harris and Helen Hayes were the first recipients of Victoria's "Star in Our Crown" award. When those were awarded, Blythe Danner and Edward Herrmann were the regal newlyweds and portrayed Victoria watching with rapture as her prince performed his morning shave. Bravo!