On Golden Pond is a play by Ernest Thompson. The plot focuses on aging couple Ethel and Norman Thayer, who spend each summer at their home on a lake called Golden Pond. During the year the story takes place, they are visited by daughter Chelsea with her fiancé and his son in tow. The play explores the often turbulent relationship the young woman shared with her father growing up, and the difficulties faced by a couple in the twilight years of a long marriage.
Norman and Ethel arrive at the summer house, finding it in need of repairs.
Norman makes a nominal effort to find a job in the classified ads, to Ethel's chagrin. The mailman, Charlie, stops by and reminisces about the Thayer's daughter, Chelsea, whom he used to date. Chelsea sends a letter indicating that she is coming to visit with her boyfriend Bill. Norman reveals that he is struggling with memory loss, after failing to recognize the area around the house when sent out to pick strawberries.
Chelsea arrives with Bill and his 13-year-old son, Billy. Chelsea asks her parents if Billy can stay with them while she and Bill go to Europe. Despite Norman's initial protests, they agree.
Norman and Billy have become friends, and spend much of their time fishing. Chelsea returns, and reveals that she and Bill are now married. Chelsea confronts her father about their troubled relationship, and the two have a reconciliation.
Norman and Ethel are packing up to leave for the winter. Chelsea calls, and they agree to go visit her in California. Norman falls down, thinking he is having a heart attack, but he recovers, and the pair leave.
After five previews, the first Broadway
production, directed by Craig Anderson, opened on February 28 1979
at the New Apollo Theatre, where it ran for 126 performances. The cast was headed by Tom Aldredge
and Frances Sternhagen
. After a summer break, it reopened with the same cast on September 12
at the Century Theatre, a small playhouse in the basement of the Paramount Hotel, where it ran for an additional 256 performances.
After nineteen previews, a Broadway revival with an African American cast directed by Leonard Foglia and produced by Jeffrey Finn opened on April 7 2005 at the Cort Theatre, where it ran for 93 performances. James Earl Jones and Leslie Uggams headed the cast. Jones, who often was ill during the run, eventually was diagnosed with pneumonia, forcing the production to a sudden close.
Michael Learned and Tom Bosley starred in a 2006-07 US national tour produced by Finn.
The play was adapted for the screen
by Thompson in 1981.
In 2001, CBS aired a live television adaptation of the play that was heavily publicized in the press due to the reunion of former Sound of Music stars Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer in the lead roles. It also starred Glenne Headly.
- Tony Award for Best Actress in a Play (Sternhagen)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding New Play
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Play (Aldredge)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actress in a Play (Sternhagen)
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Costume Design
- Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design
- Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play
- Tony Award for Best Actor in a Play (Jones)