By Steve Svetovich
And all of a sudden the world’s most famous “Jeannie” appeared in a play at the Scranton Cultural Center.
And those who have been “Dreaming of Jeannie” had the pleasure of seeing Barbara Eden perform with Barry Bostwick in A.R. Gurney’s play, “Love Letters” at the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple, Saturday, Feb. 1.
Eden, now 88 and still beautiful as ever, is the star of “I Dream of Jeannie,” which aired for 139 episodes on NBC from 1965 through 1970. The popular show still airs often on various cable channels.
In her role as “Jeannie,” she played an attractive genie set free on Coco Beach, Florida by an astronaut, U.S. Air Force Captain Major Anthony Nelson played by the late Larry Hagman who becomes her “master.”
The “Jeannie” character had a penchant for folding her arms and blinking her eyes to grant a wish or often misadventure leading to various zany and hilarious plots on the show. Eden wore a “genie” costume which hid her navel due to the etiquette at the time.
In the play “Love Letters,” Eden and Bostwick, known for his roles in “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and “Spin City,” played childhood friends and eventual love interests who correspond over 50 years.
The correspondence takes the couple from childhood to the end of life and relates how the characters come closer together to eventually form a love relationship. Eden played Melissa Gardner, a privileged New Englander, in the delightful play. She learned the role by talking to the late actress Jayne Meadows, who once starred in the show opposite her husband, the late Steve Allen.
Eventually in the play, Eden’s character passes away leaving the saddened Bostwick character a lifelong memory of friendship and correspondence.
Eden, looking fit, energetic and youthful, was dressed all in red for the play. She wore red shoes, a flowing red dress, red bow and even red lipstick. Everything matched to a tee. And she still has the same blonde hair. Her voice has not changed over the years, still very much sweet and charming like that of her 1960’s “Jeannie” character.
Bostwick, looking dapper, wore a light blue suit jacket and red tie with white polka dots. He sported a white beard and mustache and lots of white hair.
Both spoke in dramatic tones as they sat next to each other at a table and read letters written to each other over the years. The crowd roared in laughter at certain points and stood in applause at the end.
Eden, born in 1931 in Tuscon, Arizona, has starred in 27 feature films from 1956 through 2019. She starred in 24 TV films from 1971 to 2008 and reprised her “Jeannie” character in 1985 and 1991. She appeared in 41 TV series, including “Harper Valley PTA,” which Eden starred in for 30 episodes in 1981 and 1982.
Married for 29 years to Jon Eicholtz, she continues to star in various films and plays. Eden began her TV career in 1955 as a semi regular on “The Johnny Carson Show.” In 1956, she was on the TV series “How to Marry a Millionaire.”
She appeared in more than 20 Bob Hope specials, entertaining military in the Persian Gulf, the Philippines and the South Pacific.
Her memoirs, “Jeannie Out of the Bottle,” was released April 11, 2011 and debuted No. 14 on the New York Times best seller list. It chronicles her personal life and Hollywood career of more than 55 years with details of her early childhood and rise to stardem.
Eden previously co-starred in “Love Letters” with Hal Linden of “Barney Miller” in 2006.
Those who came to the Scranton Cultural Center truly witnessed a national treasure in Barbara Eden. Backstage, she was elegant, charming and as sweet as expected.
She had us all “Dreaming of Jeannie.”