|Written by||Mary Chase|
|Characters||Elwood P. Dowd
Veta Louise Simmons
E. J. Lofgren
Mrs. Ethel Chauvenet
Judge Omar Gaffney
William R. Chumley, M.D.
Lyman Sanderson, M.D.
Ruth Kelly, R.N.
Myrtle Mae Simmons
|Place premiered||48th Street Theatre
New York City, New York
|Setting||The library of the Old Dowd Mansion
The Reception Room at Chumley's Rest
Harvey is a 1944 play by the American playwright Mary Chase. Chase received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the work in 1945. It has been adapted for film and television several times, most notably in a 1950 film starring James Stewart.
Harvey premiered on Broadway on November 1, 1944, at the 48th Street Theatre and closed on January 15, 1949, after 1,775 performances. The original production was directed by Antoinette Perry and produced by Brock Pemberton and starred Frank Fay as Elwood P. Dowd and Josephine Hull as Elwood's sister Veta. Elwood was subsequently played during this run by Joe E. Brown, Jack Buchanan, and James Stewart.
A Broadway revival at the ANTA Theatre ran from February 24, 1970, to May 2, 1970, and starred James Stewart and Helen Hayes. In 1975 Stewart appeared in a West End revival at the Prince of Wales Theatre, with Mona Washbourne in the role of Veta.
The Roundabout Theatre Company production of the Broadway revival opened in previews on May 18, 2012 (officially on June 14), at Studio 54. Directed by Scott Ellis, Jim Parsons starred as Elwood, with a cast that featured Jessica Hecht, Charles Kimbrough, Larry Bryggman and Carol Kane.
Elwood P. Dowd is an affable man who claims to have an unseen (and presumably imaginary) friend Harvey — whom Elwood describes as a six-foot, three-and-one-half-inch tall pooka resembling an anthropomorphic rabbit. Elwood introduces Harvey to everyone he meets. His social-climbing sister, Veta, increasingly finds his eccentric behavior embarrassing. She decides to have him committed to a sanitarium to spare her and her daughter Myrtle Mae from future embarrassment.
When they arrive at the sanitarium, a comedy of errors ensues. The doctors commit Veta instead of Elwood, but when the truth comes out the search is on for Elwood and his invisible companion. When Elwood shows up at the sanitarium looking for his lost friend Harvey, it seems that the mild-mannered Elwood's delusion has had a strange influence on the staff, including sanitarium director Dr. Chumley and his business partner, Dr. Sanderson. Only just before Elwood is to be given an injection that will make him into a "perfectly normal human being, and you know what bastards they are!" (in the words of a taxi cab driver who has become involved in the proceedings) does Veta realize that she'd rather have Elwood the same as he's always been — carefree and kind — even if it means living with Harvey.
- Scene 1 – The Dowd Library (Myrtle, Veta, Miss Johnson, Elwood, Mrs. Chauvenet)
- Scene 2 – Chumley's Rest (Veta, Kelly, Sanderson, Elwood, Chumley, Wilson, Betty)
- Scene 1 – The Dowd Library (Myrtle, Judge, Veta, Chumley, Wilson, Elwood)
- Scene 2 – Chumley's Rest (Kelly, Sanderson, Elwood, Wilson, Chumley)
Act III – Chumley's Rest (Chumley, Wilson, Myrtle, Judge, Sanderson, Kelly, Veta, Elwood, Lofgren)
The only character to appear in all scenes is Elwood P. Dowd.
Three US television adaptations have been made. The first, in 1958 starring Art Carney, Marion Lorne, Elizabeth Montgomery, Larry Blyden, Fred Gwynne, Charlotte Rae, and Jack Weston. James Stewart reprised his famous screen role in 1972 along with Fred Gwynne, Richard Mulligan and Madeline Kahn. The latest was in 1998 with Harry Anderson, Swoosie Kurtz, Jessica Hecht (who appears in the 2012 revival), Leslie Nielsen, and William Schallert.
In addition, versions of the play were produced in 1959, 1967, 1970 and 1985 for West German television, as Mein Freund Harvey (My Friend Harvey).
On August 2, 2009, it was revealed that Steven Spielberg has committed to a new adaptation of the play. It was to be a co-production between 20th Century Fox and DreamWorks, with a screenplay written by novelist Jonathan Tropper. However, on December 4, 2009, Spielberg revealed that he had quit the project, partly due to his inability to find an actor willing to play Elwood.
The play was adapted as "Say Hello to Harvey", a stage musical by Leslie Bricusse, opening on September 14, 1981 in Toronto, where it closed prior to Washington DC and New York engagements. As Ken Mandelbaum noted in his 1991 book "Not Since Carrie": "Elwood was played by Donald O'Connor, who had made his Broadway musical debut earlier the same year in another mistake, "Bring Back Birdie". As Elwood's sister, Veta, Patricia Routledge gave another superb performance in a bomb; after (this show) she washed her hands of the American musical theatre... (it) opened up a two-set play to include scenes in the bar only described by Elwood in the play and brought on an extraneous chorus for numbers like the opening "Smalltown U.S.A." In between the songs, Chase's original play still shone through... "
In May 2012, a new production of the original play began previews in New York City at Studio 54 Theatre, starring Jim Parsons, Charles Kimbrough, Jessica Hecht, and Carol Kane. The Roundabout Theatre Company production is set to run from June 14 through August 5, 2012. Theatre review aggregator Curtain Critic gave the production a score of 73 out of 100 based on the opinions of 15 critics.
- Catholic Herald archive: Theatre by Jonathan Kemp. Accessed 1 January 2013
- Jones, Kenneth. Harvey, Starring Jim Parsons in Classic Hare-Raising Tale, Begins Broadway Run playbill.com, May 18, 2012
- Lowry, Brian (2009-08-02). "BFDealmemo on Variety.com". Weblogs.variety.com. Archived from the original on 30 January 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-06.
- "Harvey". Curtain Critic. Retrieved 21 June 2012.
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