Play by Mary Chase. Elwood P. Dowd is a heavy drinker who believes that he has befriended a six foot tall invisible rabbit called Harvey much to the dismay of his long-suffering sister Veta... but Veta has a plan... in order to save the familyís reputation she takes him to see a psychiatrist. But when the doctor mistakenly commits anxiety-ridden Veta instead of her brother, it sets off an hilarious whirlwind of confusion and chaos as everyone tries to catch a man... and his invisible rabbit. Mary Chase's Harvey won the 1945 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Harvey - Original London West End Production - 1949
Opened 5 January 1949, Closed 11 March 1950 at the Prince of Wales Theatre
Transferred 14 March 1950, Closed 1 July 1950 at the Piccadilly Theatre
The original cast featured Sid Field as 'Elwood P. Dowd' and Athene Seyler as 'Veta Louise Simmons' with Rosaline Haddon as 'Myrtle-Mae Simmons', Ernest Hare as 'William R. Chumley MD', Margery Caldicott as 'Betty Chumley', Jeremy Hawk as 'Lyman Sanderson MD', Diana Fawcett as 'Nurse Ruth Kelly' and Gordon Phillott as 'Judge Omar Gaffney'. Directed by Anthony Quayle with designs by Gladys Cobb.
Joe E Brown played the role of 'Elwood P. Dowd' during August 1949 while Sid Field was on holiday. Sadly, after returning home following his performance on Thursday 2 February 1950, Sid Field died of a heart attck in the early hours Friday 3 February. His role was then performed by his understudy, with Leslie Henson taking over from Monday 13 February 1950 for the remainder of the run.
Harvey - 1st West End Revival - 1975
Previewed 2 April 1975, Opened 9 April 1975, Closed 27 September 1975 at the Prince of Wales Theatre
The cast featured James Stewart as 'Elwood P. Dowd' and Mona Washbourne as 'Veta Louise Simmons' with Sarah Atkinson as 'Myrtle-Mae Simmons', Geoffrey Lumsden as 'William R. Chumley MD', Chili Bouchier as 'Betty Chumley', Bob Sherman as 'Lyman Sanderson MD', Kathryn Leigh Scott as 'Nurse Ruth Kelly' and John Kidd as 'Judge Omar Gaffney'. Directed by Anthony Quayle with designs by Paul Staples and lighting by Joe Davis.
Harvey - 2nd West End Revival - 1995
Previewed 16 May 1995, Opened 18 May 1995, Closed 17 June 1995 at the Shaftesbury Theatre
The cast featured Gorden Kaye as 'Elwood P. Dowd' and Rue McClanahan as 'Veta Louise Simmons' with Debra Beaumont as 'Myrtle-Mae Simmons', Frank Thornton as 'William R. Chumley MD', Margaret Courtenay as 'Betty Chumley', Clive Carter: as 'Lyman Sanderson MD', Jacinta Mulcahy as 'Nurse Ruth Kelly' and Ken Wynne as 'Judge Omar Gaffney'. Directed by Clifford Williams with designs by Hayden Griffin and lighting by Bill Bray.
Harvey - 3rd West End Revival - 2015
Previewed 17 March 2015, Opened 23 March 2015, Closed 2 May 2015 at the Theatre Royal Haymarket
A major revival of Mary Chase's Pulitzer prize-winning comedy Harvey in London starring James Dreyfus and Maureen Lipman with additional dialogue by Ken Ludwig
The cast features James Dreyfus as 'Elwood P. Dowd' and Maureen Lipman as 'Veta'Louise Simmons' with Ingrid Oliver as 'Myrtle Mae Simmons, David Bamber as 'William R. Chumley MD', Felicity Dean as 'Betty Chumley', Jack Hawkins as 'Lyman Sanderson MD', Sally Scott as 'Nurse Ruth Kelly' and Desmond Barrit as 'Judge Omar Gaffney'. Directed by Lindsay Posner with designs by Peter McKintosh, lighting by Howard Harrison and sound by Paul Groothuis.
When this production opened at the Birmingham Repertory Theatre in February 2015 prior to a regional tour and transfer here at the Haymarket Theatre, Lyn Gardner in the Guardian commented: "Harvey is an amiable couple of hours, but it's less white rabbits than a creaky old war horse. Lindsay Posner's handsome but unadventurous revival is as soothing as a nice cup of tea, despite several characters who are sketchily drawn and entirely unsympathetic... But the rabbit pulled out of the hat is the casting of James Dreyfus as Elwood. He is loveable, sweet and sweet and heartbreaking as the man who understands that itís wiser to be kind than smart." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "the play is the purest, gentlest, tamest fluff... the distinguished array of talent needs more time to bed in, but a likeable James Dreyfus already seems at home, gleaming-eyed and beaming-smiled, in the role of a man who, ever solicitous for his unreliable bounder of a pal, ends up coaxing very tangible affection from all those he comes across." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times noted how "at one point in this revival Maureen Lipman gives a masterclass in the kind of prolonged double-take at which even Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff would marvel," adding that "it is a farce, but physically a very attenuated one... for the most part it is a gentle, even sentimental piece." Neil Norman in the Daily Express thought that was a "pedestrian revival of the Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy. Even the presence of Maureen Lipman as the redoubtable Veta Louise Simmons fails to drag the play out of the Museum of Quaint Americana." Parick Marmion in the Daily Mail wrote that "moderate harassment from Maureen Lipman as [Elwood's] bossy older sister Veta adds frisson, but energy levels donít spike until she resolves to have her brother committed to stop him scaring off her unmarried daughterís suitors." Dominic Maxwell in the Times said that "Mary Chase's Pulitzer prize-winning comedy about a man and his imaginary giant rabbit is looking awfully whiskery in this tame revival... Now, despite an assured star turn from James Dreyfus as the cheerfully deluded Elwood P Dowd and some enjoyably tart support from Maureen Lipman as his anxious elder sister, Lindsay Posner's West End-bound staging never finds the superhuman zip it needs to sell its outsized premise."
"You worry how Harvey's amiably eccentric Elwood P Dowd will fare when he reaches the cut-throat West End. Will Londoners have the tolerance for his homespun whimsy, or will they be left mildly bemused as to why this kookily old-fashioned comedy, with its warm-hearted homily on human kindness, has been given such a handsome revival?... Thank goodness, Lindsay Posner's gently paced staging makes no attempt to place this play anywhere other than in the 1940s American hinterland of its original setting. Here, James Dreyfus plays the endearing Dowd beautifully. His uptight older sister, Veta Louise, is acted with verve and some deft physical miming by Maureen Lipman. They are supported by an excellent cast of experienced farceurs, including Desmond Barrit, David Bamber and Ingrid Oliver as Dowd's slightly desperate unmarried niece, Myrtle Mae. Clearly, no expense has been spared on this fine-looking production." The Sunday Times
"It is the task of director Lindsay Posner to pull a rabbit out of a hat: white, invisible, over six feet tall, named Harvey and conceived in 40s America by Mary Chase. The comedy was written to cheer audiences during the second world war and became a long-playing Broadway hit. Harvey is a furry figment of Elwood P Dowdís imagination, and James Dreyfus is excellent playing the middle-aged man with the happy smile, as content as everyone else is discomfited. The more tactful he is about the presence of his imagined rabbit, the funnier he becomes... But, for all that, Harvey is never as funny as it hopes to be... It's lucky that Posner has a delicate sense of comedy and can make a silk purse out of a rabbitís ear." The Observer
"Itís good to see that delightful comic actor James Dreyfus back on stage. Here he plays a rich Denver eccentric, Elwood P Dowd... His embarrassed socialite sister is pushed to near insanity Ė Maureen Lipman looks and sounds as if sheís been throttled by her own fox fur Ė as her attempts to get Elwood committed to a mental hospital backfire... Mary Chaseís 1944 play is, however, showing its age. There are slow bits when you canít help but think what Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall would do with the bunny. In the end the evening is redeemed by the gorgeous part of Elwood P Dowd, in whom the beaming, imperturbable Dreyfus finds plenty of comic mileage." The Mail on Sunday
James Dreyfus' West End credits include Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's (Haymarket Theatre 2009). Maureen Lipman's London theatre include Oliver Cotton's new play Daytona (Haymarket Theatre 2014), JB Priestly's When We Are Married (Garrick Theatre 2010), Trevor Nunn's revival of A Little Night Music (Garrick Theatre 2009), Peter Quilter's play Glorious! (Duchess Theatre 2006), Aladdin opposite Ian McKellen (Old Vic Theatre 2004), the musical Thoroughly Modern Millie (Shaftesbury Theatre 2003), Trevor Nunn's revival of Oklahoma! and the Joyce Grenfell play Re:Joyce (Fortune Theatre 1989, Vaudeville Theatre 1989 and 1991).
Mary Chase's Harvey premiered on Broadway in November 1944 and in London, at the Prince of Wales Theatre starring Sid Field, in January 1949. In 1950 the comedy was made into a film starring James Stewart and Josephine Hull who won the Oscar for 'Best Supporting Actress' for her role as 'Veta'. The comedy has been revived a number of times in the West End, most notably starring James Stewart in 1975 at the Prince of Wales Theatre and, most recently, at the Shaftesbury Theatre in 1995 starring Gorden Kaye and Rue McClanahan.
Harvey in London at the Haymarket Theatre Royal previewed from 17 March 2015, opened on 23 March 2015 and closed on 2 May 2015.