By LYNN ELBER, AP
LOS ANGELES — Jerry Van Dyke had to push his older sibling, Dick, into joining him on stage in “The Sunshine Boys” but says the pair are making magic together.
“We have that chemistry just from being brothers,” said Jerry Van Dyke. “It’s our first time on stage together, and it’s such a thrill at our age to do this.”
In the Neil Simon comedy at a Malibu theater, the siblings play aged ex-vaudevillians who reunite for a TV special despite a longtime feud.
Opening night Wednesday “worked like magic” and drew big audience laughs, Jerry Van Dyke said. The scenes in which the bickering comedians tussle were crowd-pleasers, he said, especially given their ages: Jerry is 79 and Dick is 85.
They’ve only appeared together a handful of times on TV, including Jerry Van Dyke’s guest appearances on the classic “The Dick Van Dyke Show” in the 1960s and on Dick Van Dyke’s “Diagnosis Murder” in the 1990s.
Jerry Van Dyke already had played in “The Sunshine Boys,” which he’s also directing, when he decided to push his big brother into coming along.
“I bugged him to death. He knew the play but didn’t know how great Neil Simon’s writing was in it,” Jerry Van Dyke said. “It’s the highlight of my life … to have something like this happen.”
His brother also was thrilled, he said. The audience has included Craig T. Nelson (“Parenthood”), who starred in the 1989-97 sitcom “Coach” in which Jerry Van Dyke was an Emmy-nominated cast member.
The Malibu Stage Company production of “The Sunshine Boys,” a limited-run fundraiser for the theater, ends Sunday.
There have been nibbles from New York about bringing the play to Broadway, Jerry Van Dyke said, but the trick is getting his brother to agree.
“I have the idea he’d say no, he couldn’t do eight shows a week. But I think he’s really getting into it,” he said.
Dick Van Dyke gained fame with the 1960 musical “Bye Bye Birdie,” for which he won a Tony Award. He was in the film version of the play and starred in other movies including “Mary Poppins” (1964) and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” (1968). He has an upcoming memoir.
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