Richard Thomas & Michael Learned in Confidentially, Chaikovski. Reunited for the first time since the Waltons
“It is impossible to describe the impression your work made on me, for several days I was as one in a delirium from which I could not emerge.”
~ Nadejda von Meck to Chaikovski
“Without exaggeration I can say that you saved me, that I would surely have gone mad and perished had you not come forward with your friendship and sympathy.”
~ Chaikovski to Nadejda von Meck
Agreeing never to meet in-person, Chaikovski and his patron, Nadejda von Meck, exchanged over 1,200 letters between 1877 and 1890. In musical history’s most extraordinary correspondence the pair reveal their love of art, love of family, and in a tragic conclusion, love of one another.
Appearing for the first time on Rhythms of LIFE series is Richard Thomas. He was seven when he made his first Broadway appearance in Sunrise at Campobello (1958). The wide-eyed, mole-cheeked, sensitive-looking Thomas soon found himself very much in demand for television roles. He was seen in the distinguished company of Julie Harris,Christopher Plummer and Hume Cronyn in a 1959 TV presentation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, worked as a regular on the daytime soap operas As the World Turns and Flame in the Wind, and co-starred with Today Show announcer Jack Lescoulie in the captivating 1961 Sunday-afternoon “edutainment” series 1-2-3 Go. While attending Columbia University, Thomas made his theatrical-film debut in Downhill Racer, then settled into a series of unpleasant, psychologically disturbed characters in films like You’ll Like My Mother (1971) and such TV series as Bracken’s World. In 1971, Thomas was cast as John-Boy Walton in the Earl Hamner-scripted TV movie The Homecoming. Though there would be a number of cast changes before The Homecoming metamorphosed into the weekly series The Waltons in 1972, Thomas was retained as John-Boy, earning a 1973 Emmy for his performance and remaining in the role until only a few months before the series’ cancellation in 1981. During the Waltons years, Thomas starred in several well-mounted TV movies, including the 1979 remake of All Quiet on the Western Front. Ever seeking opportunities to expand his range, Thomas has sunk his teeth into such roles as the self-destructive title character in Living Proof: The Hank Williams Jr. Story (1983) and the amusingly sanctimonious Rev. Bobby Joe in the satirical Glory! Glory!. In 1980, Thomas made his first Broadway appearance in over two decades as the paralyzed protagonist of Whose Life is It Anyway. Working through his own Melpomene Productions, Thomas has continued seeking out creative challenges into the 1990s. Richard Thomas has also served as national chairman of the Better Hearing Institute. We are thrilled to have him grace the stage at the Berger.
Making her third appearance with Chamber Music PLUS is four-time Best Actress Emmy Award winner Michael Learned. Ms. Learned and Mr Thomas will be working together for the first time since the Waltons.
Michael Learned was born on April 9, 1939 in Washington, D.C. The oldest of six daughters of a U.S. State Department employee, she was raised on her family’s farm in Connecticut. The family moved to Austria when she was age 11, and it was while attending boarding school in England that she fell in love with the theater and decided to become an actress.
Learned married Oscar winner Robert Donat’s nephew Peter Donat, a Canadian citizen, when she was 17 years old, a marriage that lasted 17 years and produced three sons. She learned her craft while acting for the Shakespeare Festivals in both Canada and the U.S. while simultaneously raising a family. She and her husband Peter acted together with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre (ACT) in the early 1970s. Her breakthrough came when she was appearing in an ACT production of Noel Coward’s “Private Lives”, where she was spotted by producer Lee Rich, who cast her as Olivia Walton in his new television series about a Depression era family, “The Waltons” (1971).
Learned won three Emmy Awards playing the role, and another Emmy for her next foray into series TV, “Nurse” (1981). She escaped typecasting as Olivia Walton (although she re-prised the role that made her famous in a 1995 TV-movie reunion) while appearing on numerous shows and TV movies, including top-drawer, made-for-TV specials such as the 1986 adaptation of Arthur Miller’s “American Playhouse: All My Sons (1987) with co-star James Whitmore.
All music by Chaikovski
This event is generously sponsored by Bruce and Edythe Gissing